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Princess Haya Calls for Action to Protect Health in the Developing World

GENEVA, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tobacco use encouraged by aggressive marketing and growing obesity linked to poor diets and physical inactivity endanger millions of people in the developing world, Princess Haya Al Hussein of Jordan said today at a conference hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a keynote address at the Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) Global Forum in Geneva, 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 noncommunicable 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 noncommunicable 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.

More than 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where population sizes are high, access to high quality healthcare is often limited and health promotion programs are rare.

Princess Haya, a former Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme, also highlighted the link between poor nutrition and obesity.

"Malnutrition and obesity may seem mutually exclusive, but, in fact, the two are linked by their common origins in poor diet," she said. "The cheap, low-grade and processed foods that make adults fat, starve children of absolutely essential nutrients.  Children who are malnourished and underweight during the first two years of life are damaged for the rest of their lives."

She called for a concerted effort by non-governmental organizations, governments, schools and private sector organizations to address the underlying causes of noncommunicable diseases.

"The good news is that obesity in children is largely preventable by improving diets and increasing their participation in physical activity," she said. "We must cut the amount of fatty, sugary foods in their diets.   And we must provide children with opportunities to engage in aerobic exercises like biking, running and swimming for at least 60 minutes each day," she said.

Princess Haya's role at the forum was an outgrowth of her longstanding interest in health-related issues and her work as UN Messenger of Peace, which focuses on efforts to combat poverty and hunger.

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.

SOURCE Office of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein

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SOURCE Office of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein
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