[Ip-health] JALI and Framework Convention on Global Health

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Fri Jun 1 16:15:13 PDT 2012

Professor Gostin on the role of private industry in governance of the WHO.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lawrence Gostin <gostin at law.georgetown.edu>
Date: Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 2:35 PM
Subject: [ESCR-Right-to-Health] JALI and Framework Convention on
Global Health [1 Attachment]
To: ESCR-Right-to-Health at yahoogroups.com

[Attachment(s) from Lawrence Gostin ... snip ]

Dear Friends,

I understand that concern about JALI and a Framework Convention on
Global Health (FCGH) has arisen over a recent Foreign Affairs article
on WHO reform by Devi Sridhar, Derek Yach, and myself. In particular,
the article referred to WHO’s involvement with industry, including the
regretable line that WHO “needs to embrace the private sector.”

This phrasing, and the implication it gave of our intent, was
ill-chosen. It suggested a level of influence by industry over WHO
that is not at all what we intended. What we meant was “engage” –
recognizing that commercial interests, such as in the food and
beverage industries, are a major part of the problem and it is their
responsibility to change. Understanding their perspectives, including
where they are willing to change voluntarily – which in some
influences can be the most effective and rapid approach to change –
and where more coercive state measures to protect the public’s health
will be necessary, is part of the process of bringing about this

I have long had concerns about how the food industry markets it
products, full of sugar, fat, and salt to children. The same is true
with alcoholic beverages, and the pharmaceutical industry has focused
on high cost medicines that do not improve the lives of most of the
world’s people. Without private sector change, health will never
improve, and we need to use all tools at our disposal to ensure change
ranging from regulations to voluntary agreements. In fact, I have
argued strenuously about the need for WHO to adopt strict conflict of
interest rules, never allow industry to influence WHO governance
decisions where there is even a hint of a conflict, and to embrace
civil society.

I know that the discussion on the private sector in the Foreign
Affairs article was badly drafted, and that I was not paying enough
attention. In retrospect, we should have drafted the section on WHO
and the private sector differently to much better reflect the above.

Also, my colleagues and I wrote this article as individuals,
representing only our own perspectives, not as part of JALI. Whatever
your views of the article – or even this explanation – I hope that
they do not influence your views about JALI or the FCGH. JALI
participants have been quite clear about the need for an FCGH that
makes real health as a right and not a commodity, a treaty that reigns
in private interests that are harmful to health, that ensures priority
for the right to health in non-health regimes, that advances a
health-in-all-policies approach, and that incorporates measures that
would promote health even as they may well be opposed by commercial
interests, such as taxing unhealthy foods and beverages. I think a
recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association
better reflects the central issue of global health justice (attached).

I hope that this explanation will allay your concerns. As our partner
Mark Heywood has expressed so well, an important issue for further
dialogue and debate in JALI is precisely how we regulate private
interests so that the right to health is both protect and promoted.

With warm wishes, Larry


Attachment(s) from Lawrence Gostin

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