Transcript of WHO podcast - 6 June 2008
3 million now receiving life-saving HIV drugs; what WHO is doing on health impacts of climate change; campaign asks for total ban on tobacco ads
Ravini Thenabadu: You’re listening to the WHO podcast. My name is Ravini Thenabadu and this is episode 35.
In this episode,
- Nearly 3 million HIV-positive people are now receiving antiretroviral therapy;
- a new campaign asks for a total ban on all forms of tobacco marketing;
- and, on the occasion of World Environment Day, a look at what WHO is doing to address health impacts of climate change.
Ravini Thenabadu: Nearly 3 million people are now receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report published this week. One of the highlights of the report is that more women now have access to antiretrovirals to prevent transmission to their unborn children. The report is jointly prepared by WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF.
The report highlights other achievements too: there are now more testing and counseling services available. And, more countries have made commitments to male circumcision, which is known to offer better protection against HIV transmission.
Speaking at the launch of the report, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan elaborated on the increasing rate of people being placed on antiretroviral therapy.
Dr Margaret Chan: In 2007, treatment was extended to nearly 1 million more people. Almost three quarters of people receiving these drugs are in Africa, where the epidemic is disproportionately severe and the challenges are especially daunting. The access of women to treatment is at least as good as that for men. Globally, deaths from this disease are now declining, and we can say with confidence that recent progress towards the goal of universal access is the principal reason why.
This is a remarkable achievement for public health. This proves that, with commitment and determination, major obstacles can be overcome. People living in resource-constrained settings can indeed be brought back to economically and socially productive lives by these drugs. All can take pride and share our achievement, but much more needs to be done.
Ravini Thenabadu: The 5th of June marks World Environment Day. The United Nations uses this occasion to raise awareness of environmental issues and to trigger political attention and action. Recognizing that climate change is becoming the defining issue of our era, this year the focus is on greenhouse gas emissions and how to reduce them.
The World Health Assembly this year adopted a resolution urging Member States to take decisive action to address potential health risks from climate change. Dr Maria Neira, director of the Public Health and Environment Department in WHO, explains the importance of the resolution.
Dr Maria Neira: This resolution is really a very important one for us and will better prepare the health sector to adapt to the negative consequences that climate change might bring for the health of the people. The Member States are calling on WHO secretariat to better prepare, develop and strengthen national plans and go on with the evidence for preparing for the actions we need to take to prepare for adapting health systems to climate change. We need to involve more in the international processes and mechanisms and essentially we need to help countries to develop their own plans for addressing health impacts climate change might have for them.
Ravini Thenabadu: For example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have direct and immediate health, environment and economic benefits. Dr Roberto Bertollini from the Public Health and Environment Department tells us what more can be done.
Dr Roberto Bertollini: Climate change is associated with very important health effects, which are due to increase in the future. These are related both to acute events like extreme weather events, flooding, heat waves, but also changes in the ecology of certain diseases, like vector-borne diseases, or diseases related to air pollution. WHO can continue pushing policy-makers and the public in the understanding of these issues, providing arguments, giving good examples, providing also policies which can help countries to adapt to climate change but also to contribute to the mitigation of climate change, so there is a lot that the health sector can do.
Ravini Thenabadu: "Break the net" - that's the message of a new campaign just launched for World No Tobacco Day. The campaign refers to the marketing net of tobacco companies who spend billions of dollars in ads, promotions, and marketing campaigns to attract young people to its addictive products. About 5.4 million people die per year from the tobacco epidemic and experts predict that the death toll could reach 1 billion this century.
The campaign warns that the tobacco industry catches this population at a young age. It explains how the tobacco industry markets to young people in the movies, on the Internet, in fashion magazines and at music and sports venues. Dr Douglas Bettcher, the Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, tells us more about the campaign.
Dr Douglas Bettcher: The theme of this year's World No Tobacco Day is: "break the tobacco marketing net". The net provides the symbolism to capture the marketing approach of the tobacco companies use to catch youth, to get them addicted, to keep them addicted so that they can continue to extract profits from their drug addiction in future years.
Research shows that the younger children are when they first try smoking the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are to quit. There is a strong link between advertising, promotion and sponsorship and smoking in young people. The more aware, the more appreciative the young people are of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the more likely they are to smoke.
That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. If you have any comments on our podcast or have any suggestions for future health topics drop us a line. Our email address is Podcast@who.int .
For the World Health Organization, this is Ravini Thenabadu in Geneva.