The law and regulatory measures can be used effectively to reduce exposure to cancer risks including to tobacco,
alcohol and unhealthy foods, as well as environmental exposures.
Tobacco taxation has been identified as the single most important policy intervention that governments can take to reduce major risk factors for NCDs1. It costs little to implement and increases government revenues. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that if all countries increased taxes on cigarette packs by 50%, there would be 49 million fewer smokers (38 million fewer adult smokers and 11 million fewer young future smokers) and this would avert 11 million deaths from smoking2. Additionally, policy interventions around product labelling, procurement and regulation of advertising, promotion and sponsorship can reduce exposure to unhealthy foods and drinks3,4.
Effective policy at the national level can also improve access to essential cancer medicines including pain relief medicines, and deliver quality cancer care. Following a targeted advocacy campaign, in 2014 at the World Health Assembly, governments adopted a resolution which provided clear recommendations to improve access to palliative care5. These include ensuring palliative care is embedded in all national health policies and budgets, and in the curricula for health professionals. Vitally, it also highlights the need for countries to ensure that there is an adequate supply of all essential palliative care medicines for adults and children.
In another concerted advocacy effort, UICC led a close collaboration with WHO and a dedicated task team to ensure the best
representation of cancer drugs in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML). As a result of these efforts, in May 2015, the latest edition of the WHO EML was published and includes 16 new cancer treatments – a milestone in patients’ access to cancer medicines6,7.
Patients, families, healthcare providers and civil society now need to continue to advocate to governments for the implementation of policies and programmes at the national level that translate these commitments into action for patients and their families.
1. Jamison DT, Summers LH, Alleyne G, et al. (2013). Global
health 2035: a world converging within a generation.
Lancet, Published Online December 3, 2013 http://dx.doi.
2. WHO (2014). Raising tax on tobacco: What you need to
know. Geneva: World Health Organization.
3. WHO. (2010). Set of recommendations on the marketing
of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.
Geneva: World Health Organization.
4. WCRF International. (2014). WCRF International Food
Policy Framework for Healthy Diets: NOURISHING.
5. WHO (2014). Strengthening of palliative care as a
component of integrated treatment throughout the life
course. A67/31 4 April 2014.
6. 19th WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (April
7. 20th WHO Expert Committee report on the Selection
and Use of Essential Medicines (2015) www.who.int/