An editorial published Online First in The Lancet Oncology, depicts the long-anticipated resulting statements from this week's UN Summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in New York, as a "watered-down document reflective of national and industry interests" that "lacks tangible targets", and "is a more politically correct declaration than a political declaration of war".
The Editorial points out that although a fundamental conflict of interests between the tobacco industry and public health was declared as recognized, other groups from the food and drink industry, manufacturing products that are important causes of NCDs, were also invited to attend the summit.
The Editorial writes:
"The declaration has clearly come under multiple pressures from governments and lobbyists resulting in a watered-down document reflective of national and industry interests. For example, emblematic figures have been excised, such as the aim to reduce salt intake to less then 5 g per day."
It continues to say:
"Unsurprising, these industry representatives urged a voluntary, rather than regulatory approach. Rightly, one NCD advocate likened this to, 'letting Dracula advise on blood-bank security'."
The Editorial also points towards the declaration's incredible lack of compulsory global targets:
"The outcome document should have included a set of feasible actions and interventions with specific deadlines and indicators upon which progress can be measured... Instead, the document calls on WHO simply to set up a comprehensive global monitoring framework and prepare recommendations for voluntary - not compulsory - global targets before the end of 2012, and to report initial progress in 2013. This is a missed opportunity."
The authors of the Editorial conclude:
"An opportunity to create political cohesion to tackle the biggest health challenge facing future generations has been missed. Although the declaration sets out the scale of the challenge, it lacks ambition and is more a politically correct declaration than a political declaration of war. Individual countries must now take bold steps to accelerate their responses beyond the slow timetable the UN proposes if real progress is to be made."
Written by: Petra Rattue