Friday, 15 November 2013

WCRF policy strategies to reduce non-communicable disease around the world

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) this month published a new 2-page document (.pdf) summarizing the organization's recommendations on using food policy to address the problem of high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The recommendations encourage clear nutrition labeling, healthy school meals programs, well-targeted taxes and healthy food subsidies, and restrictions on advertising for breastmilk substitutes and for unhealthy foods (especially to children).

The WCRF is an international not-for-profit umbrella organization for a network of cancer prevention organizations. WCRF literature reviews on dietary patterns and cancer risk are used by the U.S. federal government as one of several evidence sources for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The WCRF policy recommendations are bolder and more activist than some policy-makers would be ready to consider in the United States, but the WCRF approach nonetheless offers a lot of insight.  For example, a background document on law and obesity prevention (.pdf) carefully considers both advantages and disadvantages of legal approaches to addressing public health nutrition challenges.  It acknowledges not just the political power of food and beverage manufacturers to thwart such policies but also the constitutional protections for commercial speech and the serious concerns consumers may have about policy interventions that limit their autonomy.

For perspective on U.S. food policy debates, it is illuminating to hear an international perspective that is (not surprisingly) comparatively interventionist, but which at the same time fully recognizes the challenges and tradeoffs involved in such policy proposals.

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