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Increase taxes on tobacco, alcohol to save lives: Report
Tuesday December 3, 2013 8:23 PM, IANS

A group of global health experts and economists Tuesday called for increased investment in health research and development of vaccines and drugs to combat killer diseases and suggested that alcohol and sugar could be taxed more.

"Health disparities between nations could be eliminated within a generation" if around $60 billion a year was injected into healthcare systems, 25 leading health experts and economists from across the globe said in a report "Global Health 2035: A World Converging Within a Generation".

The report said global health equality remains within reach if all countries increased investment over the next 20 years.

The Lancet Commission report said the world's poorest nations could also boost growth by almost a quarter and attain health standards and life expectancies comparable to those achieved by the middle income "4C" countries -- Chile, China, Costa Rica and Cuba.

"What all the 4Cs show us is that a grand convergence between different countries, in terms of health disparities, is possible if there's a focus on preventable infections as well as the health of mothers and children," said Larry Summers, former US treasury secretary and chief economist at the World Bank who is chairing a new Commission on Investing in Health .

The report recommended taking bold preventative steps in public health such as increasing taxes on tobacco and other substances that can be harmful like alcohol and sugar.

"Our report emphasises that tobacco taxation is the single most important public health intervention," said Summers.

He said that governments and donors could create "a grand convergence" and prevent 10 million avoidable deaths per year by 2035.

The report was prompted by the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Development Report.

The commission points to the possibility of achieving dramatic gains in global health by 2035 through a grand convergence around infections, maternal and child mortality, major reductions in the incidence and consequences of non-communicable diseases and injuries and the promise of universal health coverage.

To achieve health equality by 2035, low income countries will have to invest between $23bn and $27bn annually while lower middle income countries would have to invest between $38bn and $53bn annually, the commission estimates.

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