Dubai Princess Haya Calls For Action to Protect Health in the Developing World

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Tobacco use encouraged by aggressive marketing and growing obesity linked to poor diets and physical inactivity endanger millions of people in the developing world, Dubai Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said today at the Non-communicable Disease Network (NCDnet) Global Forum hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

Tobacco use encouraged by aggressive marketing and growing obesity linked to poor diets and physical inactivity endanger millions of people in the developing world, Dubai Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said today at the Non-communicable Disease Network (NCDnet) Global Forum hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

In a keynote address, Princess Haya cited the direct link between unhealthy lifestyles and a host of life-threatening illnesses. The WHO estimates that nearly 2.6 million people die annually in developing countries from non-communicable illnesses related to inactivity. More than 3.6 million people in the developing world died from tobacco-related illnesses in 2004.

“The global tobacco industry has started to exploit the developing world by using the same marketing and lobbying tactics perfected — and often outlawed — in the developed world. The industry now targets women and teens to use tobacco while pressuring governments to block marketing restrictions and tax increases - the same tactics it has used for decades to boost sales in developed countries,” she said.

The Global Forum, which was opened by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, marked the first time key stakeholder groups have convened to address the large-scale and increasing global health and development burden posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs, mainly heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases claim more than 35 million lives each year, accounting for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.

NCDnet is a voluntary collaborative network comprised of WHO Secretariat staff, an International Advisory Council, WHO regional NCD networks and the NCDnet Global and Regional Forum meetings. Over 100 people representing different geographic regions met to address the NCD gap in the development agenda and the mobilization of support.

Attendees included HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Duchess of Brabant; Dr. Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General, WHO; Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum; Julian Schweitzer, Acting Vice-President, World Bank; and HE Laurette Onkelinx, Vice Prime-Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health, Belgium, to name a few.

In a meeting prior to the NCDnet Global Forum, Dubai Princess Haya accepted the invitation to act as Honorary Chair of the International Advisory Council (IAC) of NCDnet. The IAC is tasked with providing strategic advice to the WHO's Assistant Director-General for NCDs and mental health on the achievement of objective five (promote partnerships for the prevention and control of NCDs) of the 2008 -2013 WHO Action Plan.

Addressing the Council members, She expressed her aim to help the WHO in shaping an NCDnet that is relevant, focused and credible. “Results can only be achieved in partnership, because resources for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases are limited in most developing countries,” said Princess Haya. “When we discuss the issue of partnerships for NCDs in developing countries, now and in the future, we need to do so in a broader context of complex health challenges, increasing needs, competing priorities, and rising expectations.”

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