Action on NCDs: what WCRF International is calling for the WHO to do

Dr Corinna HawkesCorinna Hawkes is currently serving as Interim Head of Policy and Public Affairs for WCRF International. She is a specialist in food policy and Honorary Fellow at the Centre for Food Policy, City University, London.

Recently, WCRF International submitted its response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Discussion Paper  on the process of developing a new NCD Action Plan for 2013-2020. The last WHO NCD Action Plan (2008-2013) – the document produced by WHO to guide action by its Member States and other key stakeholders – is about to end.  So what should the next Action Plan look like from a cancer prevention perspective, and how should the role of food, diet, nutrition and physical activity factor into that?

First, it needs to be clear where the Plan is heading. The Member States have agreed a key target to reduce preventable NCD deaths by 25% by 2025. The Action Plan needs to be explicit that this is its purpose. And the aim of the Action Plan itself? To encourage countries to accelerate their actions.

Then there’s the question of what kinds of actions are necessary. We can be clear that actions are needed to create political and public awareness and boost capacity and revenue. This will improve the environment in which countries can do what really matters for cancer prevention: create health-promoting environments which reduce risks associated with tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

In our response, we call on WHO to invest more effort in providing clearer guidance for countries on what to do. There is good guidance for tobacco, but for healthy eating, there is simply not enough technical guidance from WHO to help countries know what to do and how. We hope that WHO will take this opportunity to map out more clearly the policy actions and interventions countries could – and should – be taking to help them meet the 25 by 25 target.

There is good guidance for tobacco, but for healthy eating, there is simply not enough technical guidance from WHO to help countries know what to do and how.

The Action Plan also needs to encourage research, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of progress – including the evaluation of policy actions and interventions. Building the knowledge base for action is essential. And in the meantime, so is action.

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