Xaviera Cabada, of Mexican consumer organisation El Poder del Consumidor, was part of the CI delegation to the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva in May. Whilst there she helped stage a campaign stunt on food marketing, and observed the discussions by Member State governments on how to tackle non communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, often associated with poor diet. Xaviera explains why taking action to help consumers choose healthier diets is so important, and what she thinks should be done.
Mexico and Switzerland may seem very different countries which have huge differences in living standards. But the World Health Assembly showed me they are actually not so different after all. At the assembly, governments of the world were discussing noncommunicable diseases, or as I would describe them, chronic diseases. Chronic diseases affect all countries and all types of people, whether they be rich or poor, young or old. Diseases like diabetes, different types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, kidney and hepatic diseases, metabolic disorders, obesity are conditioning the next generations to a future of illness. And it’s big business, riddled with conflicts of interests, which is to blame.
We need to stand up for what humanity really is about. We need to make ourselves be heard. One person can make a big difference but imagine what millions of voices can do. Children deserve to have access to only healthy foods in their schools and clean potable free drinking water – these are basic needs. They need to be protected from junk food marketing and unhealthy products. We also need to protect babies and mothers from advertising of formulas that threatens the uptake of breastfeeding. Labelling also needs to be clear for consumers so that they know when products are really high on sugars, fat or salt. Small farmers need to be supported so they can provide the population with healthy fresh foods, life fruits and vegetables, grains and whole foods. What is needed the most is political will.
We must protect children from being harassed by aggressive marketing – even if we have to dress up as Tony the Tiger and Ronald McDonald to make the point. (Thanks to wonderful Patti Rundall [as Tony] and CI Head of Advocacy Justin MacMullan [as Ronald]. Thanks also to Anna Glayzer, CI’s Programme Coordinator for Food Safety, Security and Nutrition, Barbara Pfenniger from the Federation Romande Des Consommateurs as well as our colleagues from IBFAN Geneva-GIFA, Lida Ihotska, Judith Richter, Ina Verzivolli, Annelies Allain.) People all over the world are suffering because of these highly costly chronic diseases, the more we speak out the more we´ll be heard. At the end of the assembly, Member States unanimously adopted and supported an omnibus resolution on NCDs. It included some recommendations for Member States seeking to improve diets.