Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was a landmark event for public health – can the same model be applied to diets?

As the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) celebrates its tenth anniversary on 27 February 2015, Consumer International's Head of Advocacy Justin Macmullan makes the case for coordinated global action on diet-related diseases. 

Consumers International (CI) is very proud of the role we played in supporting the passage of the FCTC, and the work that many CI Members continue to do to support its implementation in their own countries.

Tobacco still kills 6 million people a year so there is still a lot more to be done, particularly in low and middle income countries where 80% of the world’s one billion smokers are living. 

However the FCTC marked a significant moment in the struggle to fight this epidemic and a huge amount has been achieved in the last ten years. In many countries smoking is now discouraged by banning marketing, banning smoking in public places and pushing up the price through taxation. 

It shows what can be achieved when governments come together to support a public health goal.

Given what the FCTC has achieved, including establishing an agreed framework of policies, a monitoring system and an international agreement that strengthens the hand of governments in the face of often fierce opposition, CI believes it is time to ask if the same model can be applied to tackle the global public health crisis caused by diet-related diseases. 

Diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers now account for more than 11 million deaths a year, more than the number of deaths connected to smoking. There is also a huge financial cost, obesity alone is estimated to cost the economy $2 trillion dollars. This is a genuine global issue with some of the fastest rates of increase in low and middle income countries. 

Many countries have introduced policies to try to improve diets but not one country has yet introduced measures to achieve a significant reduction in the level of obesity.

Despite this worrying trend, there is actually widespread consensus about the comprehensive package of policies that is needed to tackle the problem. What is needed now is political will and leadership.

To mark World Consumer Rights Day this year, CI is calling for a new Global Convention to Protect and Promote Healthy Diets. The agreement would use the same mechanism as the FCTC and would give governments the support they need to tackle this global health emergency.

A Global Convention could provide a framework that governments could follow including policies such as:
  • Reducing very high levels of fat, sugar and salt in everyday foods
  • Banning junk food marketing to kids
  • Providing clearer information to help consumers choose healthy diets
  • Ensuring trade and investment agreements support, not hinder, healthy diets
If you support our call for a new global convention to support healthy diets please join our Thunderclap campaign. 

Supporting the campaign is quick and easy, just visit our Thunderclap page and click on the big red buttons to ‘Add your support’ via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Thunderclap will then send the following message to all your friends and followers on 15 March 2015:

 “I want a world where consumers have the right to healthy food #WHO must take action #FoodTreatyNow”

Please also share this link  with your friends, colleagues and supporters so that we can grow support for a global treaty to promote healthier diets!

As with the FCTC, a Global Convention for healthy diets would have to be agreed through the World Health Organisation and that requires support from governments around the world. That is why CI is calling for people everywhere to make their voices heard in support of action to promote and protect healthy diets.

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