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New report highlights need for action on health in the aftermath of war
Date:12/31/2011

Countries recovering from war are at risk of being left to their own devices in tackling non communicable diseases, leaving an "open door" for exploitation by alcohol, tobacco and food companies, health experts warn.

Writing in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Bayard Roberts and Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Preeti Patel, of King's College London, argue that the post-conflict environment risks increases of mental health problems and other NCDs, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

After exposure to violent and traumatic events, people may be prone to developing harmful health behaviours, such as excessive drinking and smoking, which exacerbate the problem of NCDs in the long-term. This is why the lack of a strong will from the authorities to restore the health system leaves an open door for commercial ventures to influence health policy to their advantage.

The authors write: "This toxic combination of stress, harmful health behaviours and aggressive marketing by multinational companies in transitional settings requires an effective policy response but often the state has limited capacity to do this."

Afghanistan has no national policy or strategy towards NCDs and, apart from the European Commission, none of its partners has given priority to introduce and support them. High blood pressure is largely untreated in Iraq, three times as many people die prematurely from NCDs in Libya than from infectious diseases and similar patterns can be found in other countries recovering from conflict.

"This policy vacuum provides an open door for multinational companies to influence policies in ways that undermine efforts to control tobacco and alcohol use or improve unhealthy diets in transitional countries," the experts say.

Little attention is paid in reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to helping countries emerging from conflict deal with their present or future burden o
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Contact: Paula Fentiman
paula.fentiman@lshtm.ac.uk
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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