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Has the World Health Organization become a sideline in the wars for world commerce? Manufacturers of products such as commercial formulas, processed foods, alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals and electronic gaming software are stepping up their efforts to influence United States policies towards the WHO. This, according to researchers at the University of California Davis in a new paper, threatens the global health management system, which should be free from commercial influence.

Such lobbying has been going on for decades, but in recent years the effort has taken a new coordinated form, fomenting conflict between the U.S. and WHO at a time when COVID-19 was about to strike, and complicating the nation’s response to the pandemic, researchers said.

“Lobbying can be a healthy part of the democratic process,” said Catherine Russ, a professor of economics at UC Davis and lead author of the study. “But our findings suggest that WHO’s focus is on scientific and professional integrity, as well as on the operational capabilities of the global health management system – just when we need it most.”

An article published today in the May 2022 issue Global Health Management, is the first comprehensive study of lobbying spending aimed at U.S. government-related politics to the WHO, the leading body of the United Nations in the field of health. Data from inquiries into the Freedom of Information Act – as well as analysis of other public documents and disclosures since 2006 – show cross-sectoral coordination aimed at shaping WHO’s operational policies and health recommendations, as well as funding for WHO itself, Rus. said.

“We are not talking about a single administration or party,” Rus said. “This strengthening of US corporate lobbying for global health is problematic because it enhances commercial interests in processes that shape global health goals. In addition, these corporate organizations have vast, concentrated pools of private wealth to exploit these groups. the public interest that lobbies for health policy cannot coincide ”.

Policies aimed at diabetes, heart disease, cancer

The study illustrates how dozens of corporate groups acted in concert to oppose the WHO and policy recommendations aims to support countries fighting to stop the growth of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – diseases that increased the disease during the pandemic.

According to researchers, WHO lobbyists’ recommendations include general efforts to promote health, such as:

  • deterring inappropriate marketing of formulas for newborns and toddlers that can confuse parents when choosing breastfeeding and baby food
  • encouraging consumers to limit sugar and alcohol in their diet
  • expanding access to essential medicines, including COVID-related programs
  • paying attention to the addictive effects of video games

Although not directly affiliated with this coalition, tobacco industry in recent years has simultaneously conducted lobbying efforts on criticize the WHO for limiting the participation of commercial entities in the formation of global health policy, and one group related to tobacco, recommended to reduce funding for this organization by 25% US, according to researchers.

Presidential Policy and Reform

During the Clinton administration, then-Senator Biden struck a deal with U.S. Senator Jesse Helms to resume U.S. and WHO funding. While the Biden administration has canceled the US withdrawal from the WHO announced by the Trump administration, the current administration remains in favor of an uncertain “reform” in the midst of a pandemic, Russ said.

The coordinated industry lobby has used “reform” as a buzzword to allow more industry influence over global health policy processes, despite the commercial conflict of interest it represents, she added.

The researchers noted that the United States has stricter disclosure laws than other WHO member states, making such an analysis of the European Union impossible.

“What is happening here should be a warning of the importance of strict and detailed requirements for lobbying, transparency in the discussion of US official positions in multilateral institutions and the importance of verifying conflicts of interest at the national level before formulating global health positions.” Said Rus.

Without such protocols, the study concludes, instead of promoting a global vision of health, the U.S. could act as a channel for the industry’s intensive efforts to destroy global health politics from within, she said.

The WHO Foundation should not accept donations from the alcohol industry

Additional information:
Issue for May 2022 Global Health Management.

Citation: Researchers believe industry lobbying on WHO policy overshadows public health policy (2022, May 18) obtained May 18, 2022 from health-policy.html

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