15/06/2014

Cancer a bigger threat than ebola, but it receives only a fraction of the attention

Arena / By ZAM Reporter

Amidst all the panic about ebola, serious as the scare is, it must not be forgotten that infectious diseases are actually on their way out as the biggest health problem in low income countries. The World Health Organisation warned already three years ago that a disaster was brewing among the populations of these countries in the shape of cancer, and that unlimited marketing of tobacco, alcohol and fatty and sugary foods, combined with a rising standard of living, were largely to blame for this.

At a next WHO meeting in 2013, Director General Margaret Chan came out strongly against ‘Big Tobacco, Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol’, whose business tactics in developing countries, she said, were hampering public health efforts, as these “go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. All of these industries fear regulation.” Chan attacked the international “failure of political will to take on big business”, adding: “Market power readily translates into political power. Few governments prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything.” As people in the developing world are dying of cancer and diabetes in ever larger numbers, international health assistance budgets –even the WHO’s- remain skewed in favour of infectious diseases, notes a ‘Follow the Money’ article published in the Netherlands.