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Taxing Unhealthy Products Can Save Lives And Help To Fund Universal Health Coverage

(New York, USA)—José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, issued the following statement to coincide with World Health Day 2019:

“Access to health care should be a universal human right, yet half the world’s population lacks essential medical services. A diagnoses, like diabetes can be a death sentence, if essential medicines are unaffordable and insurance isn’t an option.

This is simply unacceptable.

Yet there are ways to pay for health care and reduce health care costs at the same time. One is to tax unhealthy products that can cause disease – products including tobacco, sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol.

Taxes on unhealthy commodities, can be used to fund universal coverage, while addressing the leading global driver of death and disability: noncommunicable diseases (NCD’s).

NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory diseases account for two-thirds of deaths worldwide, 75 percent of which occur in low- and middle-income countries. They affect the quality of life, productivity, income and lifespan of families, communities and economies. If we stick to the status quo, the cumulative worldwide cost of NCDs between 2011 and 2030 will exceed $47 trillion. However, with political will, proven solutions can improve people’s health and well-being.

By taxing unhealthy commodities that significantly contribute to NCDs, we make them less accessible and affordable—reducing consumption of the very products that can drive disease. This prevention strategy not only reduces disease but offers a source of funding for health systems and countries’ economies. Additionally, people across the globe will be faced with less preventable disease, while counties will reduce crippling health-care debt.

This World Health Day, we join the global call for universal health coverage, and emphasize the need to implement taxes on the products that most directly affect adverse health outcomes.”

Noncommunicable diseases – including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental and neurological disorders – are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Of 56.9 million global deaths in 2016, 40.5 million, or 71%, were due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Media Contact

Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies:; +1.914.424.3356

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health.

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.