According to the WHO, systems of preventive education would cost less than $1 a year per person in the poorest countries and about $3 per person in richer ones. For the world's 144 low- and middle-income nations, the investment would be just over $11 billion. The return on this investment would likely be many hundred times the initial investment when we consider long-term efficacy and savings.
Who Will Pay?
It is not a question of who will pay. It would pay for itself in the long-run. Investing in systems of health promotion are akin to investing in a haircut to prevent your hair from getting longer, or an oil change to prevent your engine parts from wearing out. Yes, it really is that simple. Very small, cost-effective changes can make a world of difference when it comes to investing in health rather than disease.
Take high blood pressure for example. There is up to a 20% reduction in high blood pressure via exercise and nutritional programs while there is only a maximum of 3% reduction from pharmaceutical intervention.
HDL "good" cholesterol cannot effectively be increased with drugs, yet it can be increased by more than 15% with exercise. Diabetes can only be controlled with drug therapy, yet with diet and exercise it can be cured. Arthritis pain is only modestly reduced with drug therapy and it is usually at the expense of long-lasting side effects. Exercise can reduce arthritis and joint pain by 40%. The list goes on.
Experts recently met at the United Nations for a two-day conference to discuss the growing epidemic of ailments, principally heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung conditions such as emphysema and asthma. Together they account for 63 percent of deaths each year. What they failed to address are the root causes of these epidemics.
We don't need some multi-billion dollar campaign or require the assistance of greedy corporate suits to take over these projects. We need common sense grassroot "let's get back to basics" action. Get rid of everything that is promoting disease and start investing in everything that promotes health. That is, get rid of genetically modified foods, vaccines, fluoridated water, processed junk foods, toxic chemicals in packaging and household products, pesticides, herbicides and any other source of toxicity to the human body. Why is it that we just can't start with these basic concepts before initiating a campaign designed to make governments look like they know what they're doing when they really don't
No Target Set
The WHO suggested a goal of reducing national mortality rates by 25 percent by 2025. But the United States, the European Union and Canada opposed it, so no target was set and discussion of the matter will be deferred until 2012.
“The fear is that if you commit to something there will be the expectation that wealthy countries are going to finance this,” J. Stephen Morrison, director of global health policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in advance of the meeting.
Well wealthy countries won't need to pay for it if the proper education is in place for years to come. "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Why is it that we can't teach both developed and under developed nations anything about health? The answer is greed. The disease industry makes billions and they want people just healthy enough to work, but just sick enough to need constant care from conventional medicine.
Anthony Vick from the Preventive Task Force said there is no effort by any government in the world to use prevention as a tool to help the health of its citizens. "The pharmaceutical industry has a firm grasp on most countries when it comes to maintaining disease as the status quo. There is no other way they can survive," said Vick.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take some exorbitant amount of money to make prevention a reality. However, it does take the right initiative by parties who are interested in health above all else.
“One of the myths out there is that this is going to be expensive to put right, and that is not correct,” said Ann Keeling, head of the International Diabetes Federation in Brussels, who helped organize a consortium of similar advocacy groups called the NCD Alliance.
In particular, she said, low-income countries can raise money for the work immediately by raising taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Smoking is responsible for 9 percent of deaths worldwide. If you want to smoke or drink alcohol, then help pay for people's health and that of future generations.
It is quite the fallacy when so-called experts believe that some miraculous change is necessary in the urban landscape for people to walk more and drive less. They think it requires cooperation from several branches of government not usually involved in public health. Who needs government or public health to arrange a community walk or group classes for nutrition, yoga or evening walks. Even a grade school student can arrange that and they have. If we continue to make excuses as to why prevention cannot be implemented....guess what? It will never be implemented.
The international community continues to blame smoking and excessive drinking for a large majority of deaths when it's actually inactivity and unhealthy diets which cause most of the fatalities. Four medical conditions high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity are all directly related to physical inactivity and poor diet.
The U.N. meeting shows that it takes a public event to make the leaders of many countries pay attention to a national health problem and, rhetorically at least, commit to addressing it. However, the focus needs to shift away from things people know are killing them (i.e. tobacco control, processed foods and drinking) to the toxic substances in food, genetically modified foods, water and vaccines that they don't know are killing them and their children. Only then can we begin to have a healthy mindset for future generations.
Additional campaigns to defer deaths from noncommunicable diseases will not advance the health of the world. They've been at that song for almost four decades without success. They're simply scapegoats.
It's time to tell people the truth about what actually causes disease. If we can burst that bubble of ignorance that keeps people in a state of bliss, allowing all health decisions to be made for them, our potential to educate the masses is limitless. It starts with you.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.