In a speech at the United Nations, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has called for governments across the world to work collectively to tackle the rising tide of lifestyle-related diseases.
Addressing members of the United Nations General Assembly, who had convened to discuss the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, he set out that international action is needed to make real progress against cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes through collective international action to curb tobacco consumption and reduce alcohol abuse.
Just as previous worldwide efforts have saved millions of lives through programmes to eradicate communicable diseases such as smallpox and polio, Andrew Lansley told the meeting that the current generation’s greatest health challenges stem from the causes of ill-health, such as poor diet and environments, lack of exercise and changing lifestyles. Key to change must be tackling the causes of health inequalities.
He called for a ‘whole government’ approach and for a determination to tackle the social determinants of health, and a focus on prevention of the risk factors leading to non-communicable diseases.
Speaking in New York, Andrew Lansley said: ‘More than half a century ago, our predecessors came together to tackle infectious diseases: the greatest health challenges of their day. Today, we face new challenges from obesity, lung disease and alcohol-related diseases. These are inextricably linked to the way we live our lives. They are just as widespread, just as chronic and increasingly threaten early mortality and disability.
‘We need a bold and determined whole government approach looking at better outcomes and helping individuals to make better choices about their own health. With an emphasis on prevention, on physical activity, on personal and corporate responsibility and with unified government action, we can make a big difference.
‘I hope that in decades to come, our successors will look back and see that now was when the tide began to turn, that with progress and development, came not only opportunity and increased life expectancy, but healthy life expectancy.’