Friday, November 15, 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.

1 comment:

WCRF International said...

Dear Parke, Thank you very much for sharing our recent publications with your readers. It is extremely interesting to read your insights, including your take on the implications of our work for the US food policy debate. The recommendations we set out in the NOURISHING Framework you reproduce on your blog apply to nutrition (i.e. malnutrition more broadly) and NCDs and are intended to be globally applicable. It is adapted from the basic framework on our website which is focused on healthy diets and obesity prevention only (

In both, we recognise the need for governments to retain flexibility in choosing and designing policy options that are suitable to their own context and priorities. In our paper on law and obesity, we sought to explore what opportunities there is for implementing this policy framework through the use of law. Again the opportunities and challenges are often context-specific, but we're glad that the findings and lessons–learnt will be useful in informing your own work in the US.

We will shortly be updating our NOURISHING webpages with examples of policy action from around the world, including several innovative examples from the US. We encourage you and your readers check back and have an explore!