WHO regional meet in Colmobo pledges to curb Junk food consumption

The regional committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO), comprising 11 countries, including India, at its meeting in Colombo pledged to intervene and regulate eating habits of citizens and sale of junk food and undertake targeted screening for identifying NCDs.

With non-communicable and lifestyle diseases accounting for over 60 per cent of disease-deaths, the regional committee of the World Health Organisation meeting in Colombo pledged to undertake targeted screening for early diagnosis of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and regulate eating habits of citizens and sale of food.

Sugary beverages and packaged food that are high on salt and trans fat are likely to attract higher taxes in countries like India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where the growing consumption of such products is fuelling obesity, diabetes and heart disorders.

Controlling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) was the key agenda discussed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and member states of its Southeast Asian chapter at the regional committee's 69th meet in Colombo.

The meeting pledged to undertake targeted screening for early diagnosis of NCDs, and regulate eating habits of citizens and sale of food high on sugar, salt and trans fat as they adopted the 'Colombo Declaration' on Monday.

Expressing his concern on the rising prevalence of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases around the globe, leader of the Indian delegation and health minister J P Nadda said the problems of modern lifestyles are well known.

A decline in communicable diseases has been accompanied by a gradual rise in the prevalence of chronic 'non-communicable diseases' (NCDs) which now contribute to 60 per cent of mortality, Nanda said, adding that Yoga, an ancient practice of India, can contribute to resilience against non-communicable diseases.

The knowledge of Yoga can be very effectively used for preventing and controlling many of the lifestyles diseases.

''Major non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, CVD, stroke, and COPD are to a great extent by unhealthy lifestyle. If the body is a temple of the mind, yoga creates a beautiful temple,'' Nadda stated.

Health minister J P Nadda, who was present at the high-level meeting, said the government was conscious of the rising burden of NCDs, and already working to control them.

"India was among the first countries to approve and adopt the national multi sectoral action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs," Nadda said during his address at the opening of the meet, which was attended by over 250 delegates from across the world.

Nadda said the government was planning to issue specific guidelines for public food consumption along with awareness campaigns to wean people away from junk food.

The government, he said, will also evaluate the proposal to impose higher taxes. Every year, nearly 5.8 million Indians die of heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes, ie, one out of four Indians is at risk of dying from an NCD before they reach the age of 70, he pointed out.

"This is an important opportunity to reaffirm (our) commitment to the global reaffirm (our) commitment to the global goal of reducing NCD-related premature mortality by one-third by 2030, and to actually map how we will get there.

"Implementing effective policy solutions is vital to addressing the personal and social tragedy caused by NCDs, as well as their impact on economic development," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for WHO Southeast Asia.

Ensuring appropriate treatment, robust follow-up, management of referrals and focusing on and expanding NCD services to high-risk populations are key parts of the `Colombo Declaration'. At the meeting, health ministers from the region also committed to dedicated taxation for tobacco and alcohol.

Nadda also received the certificate for MNTE and Yaws-free India today. The certificates were presented by DG, WHO, Dr Margaret Chan and DG, WHO-SEARO Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.