NewsWHO report: Industries causing millions of deaths annually

WHO report: Industries causing millions of deaths annually

Four industries responsible for the most deaths
Four industries responsible for the most deaths
Images source: © Getty Images | Yevgeniy Sambulov

2:53 PM EDT, June 12, 2024

In its latest report, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that four industrial sectors are leading to premature death or poor health, affecting millions of victims each year.

According to the WHO report, four industrial branches—namely the tobacco products industry, ultra-processed foods, fossil fuels, and alcohol—contribute annually to 34% of deaths worldwide.

This translates to 19 million deaths globally every year, including 2.7 million deaths in the European region of WHO (53 countries from Europe and Central Asia).

These four diseases kill Europeans

The report highlights that in the European region of WHO, the primary causes of premature deaths and disabilities are non-communicable diseases. Nearly 75% of deaths can be attributed to four conditions: cardiovascular diseases, malignant cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.

The authors emphasize that industry efforts to block health policies, particularly those that affect vulnerable individuals, are designed to maximize their profits.

Therefore, WHO experts are calling on countries to implement mechanisms to identify conflicts of interest and protect legal regulations and public policies from industry representatives' interference.

Four industries kill at least 7,000 people in our Region every day. The same large commercial entities block regulation that would protect the public from harmful products and marketing, and protect health policy from industry interference – commented WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge.

Highest level of alcohol consumption in the world

Data indicate that one in five deaths from cardiovascular diseases and cancers in the European Union is related to an unhealthy diet, which includes food products that promote obesity. Additionally, the European Union has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world and the most health damage associated with it, as well as the highest level of tobacco use among teenagers.

The report has also documented harmful practices by the pharmaceutical industry in managing diseases, such as unfair pricing, which reduces the availability of anti-cancer medicines and promotes unproven and unregulated screenings.

"We need to reframe the problem as a systemic problem"

The authors recommend that trade agreements prioritize public health and adopt more health-friendly interpretations of economic regulations. This will ensure that public health is no longer sacrificed to economic interests.

"For too long we have considered risk factors as being mostly linked to individual choices. We need to re-frame the problem as a systemic problem, where policy has to counter ‘hyper-consumption environments’, restrict marketing and stop interference in policy-making" – commented Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Health Frank Vandenbroucke on the report.

During the conference where the report was presented, Dr. Gauden Galea, WHO Regional Strategic Advisor for Non-Communicable Diseases and Innovation for the European Region, stated, "the insidious practices of powerful industries did not appear overnight, and they will not go away easily. This is a long-term effort that requires political will, first and foremost".

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