International Health Professional Poll Puts Heart Disease, Obesity and Cancer As Top Health Problems

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 7, 2004 - A poll of the global representatives of nursing, medicine and pharmacy has revealed that heart disease, obesity and cancer are expected to be the top health problems in both developing and developed countries over the next five to ten years. The informal poll was taken at the historic first conference of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) in Geneva prior to the WHO’s World Health Assembly.

The gathering of nurses, pharmacists and physicians from more than 60 countries identified dietary change, unequal access to information and trade policies as the top trends affecting these health challenges, while rating terrorism very low as a trend affecting health.

While HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were also on the priority list of developing countries, the fact that overall these big killers were rated low as health challenges (10 and 11 of a list of 16) indicates that concern about the urgency of fighting the pandemic has still not been fully integrated by all health professionals. A heavy workload, stressful work environment and insufficient staff topped the list of trends and concerns for health professionals themselves. Full results of the poll can be accessed at

“In pointing to heart disease, obesity and cancer as the top health challenges today and in the near future, health professionals are underlining the importance of the lifestyle changes that the world is witnessing: an increasingly sedentary life and unhealthy eating”, said Delon Human, General Secretary of the World medical Association, a founding partner of the WHPA along with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).

“Though HIV/AIDS registered low on the poll, we were very pleased that a resolution issued by delegates called on all physicians, nurses and pharmacists to act as strong advocates and social leaders in the war against HIV/AIDS,” stated Ton Hoek, General Secretary of the International Pharmaceutical Federation.

“Concerns about stress, workload and retention of staff also revealed through the poll, speak to issues of migration and the need for countries to find ways to retain and further train existing staff as well as reactivate staff that have left the health system”, clarified Judith Oulton, Chief Executive Officer of the International Council of Nurses.

The conference brought together for the first time members from the International Council of Nurses, the International Pharmaceutical Federation and the World Medical Association, providing an innovative platform for inter-professional, international collaboration on health issues.