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Michael R. Bloomberg and Lawrence H. Summers Create Task Force to Address Preventable Leading Causes of Death and Noncommunicable Diseases Through Fiscal Policy

President of Uruguay, First Minister of Scotland, and Leaders in Economics, Health and Development Join to Advocate for Lifesaving Policies that Address Noncommunicable Diseases Linked to Tobacco Use, Obesity and Alcohol Consumption

World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg and distinguished economist Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the US Treasury and former Director of the National Economic Council of the United States, today announced a Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health.

The Task Force brings together esteemed fiscal policy, development and health leaders from around the globe to address the enormous and growing health and economic burden of noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, with underutilized fiscal policy tools.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death in the world, killing 40 million people each year and representing 70% of all annual deaths. Eighty percent of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, straining health care systems, contributing to poverty and posing a major barrier to development. Tobacco use, obesity and risky alcohol consumption are three leading risk factors for the development of NCDs. Existing evidence indicates that using taxation to raise the price of products which may have negative health impacts is one of the most effective ways to reduce their use.

This new Task Force will examine the evidence on excise tax policy for health, including barriers to implementation, and make recommendations on how countries can best leverage fiscal policies to yield improved health outcomes for their citizens with the added benefit of bringing in additional revenue.

Task Force on Fiscal Health Members include:  

  • Michael R. Bloomberg, Co-Chair (United States)
  • Lawrence H. Summers, Co-Chair (United States)
  • Masood Ahmed, President, Center for Global Development (United States)
  • Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Former Central Bank Governor (Malaysia)
  • Kaushik Basu, Professor of Economics, Cornell University (United States)
  • Helen Clark, Former UNDP Administrator; Former Prime Minister of New Zealand (New Zealand)
  • Margaret Chan, Former Director General, WHO (Hong Kong)
  • Bent Høie, Minister of Health and Care Services (Norway)
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Minister of Finance, Nigeria (Nigeria)
  • Zhu Min, Director, National Institute of Financial Research, Tsinghua University, China (China)
  • Mauricio Cardenas, Minister of Finance, Colombia (Colombia)
  • Minouche Shafik, Director, London School of Economics (England)
  • Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Scotland)
  • Tabaré Vázquez, President of Uruguay (Uruguay)

“Noncommunicable diseases are a growing global crisis, especially in low-and-middle income countries,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “There’s substantial evidence that taxes and fiscal policies are essential to confronting this health threat. This Task Force will explore which policies can make the biggest difference and help them spread, saving millions of lives.”

“We have strong evidence from around the world that raising taxes on products like tobacco, sugar sweetened beverages and alcohol is highly effective at reducing harmful consumption and saving lives,” said Lawrence H. Summers. “I’m grateful for the commitment of this impressive group of leaders, whose expertise and experience will help the Task Force bring attention to the enormous potential of fiscal policies for health.”

Michael R. Bloomberg was appointed Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases in 2016 and through his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has been battling NCDs since 2007. He also brings his unique experience as a business leader and former mayor. During Michael Bloomberg’s time as mayor of New York City, New Yorkers saw a three-year increase in life expectancy thanks, in part, to policies that addressed NCDs and put people’s health first.

Lawrence H. Summers is one of America’s leading economists. In addition to serving as 71st Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, Dr. Summers served as Director of the White House National Economic Council in the Obama Administration, as President of Harvard University, and as the Chief Economist of the World Bank. Dr. Summers chaired the Lancet Commission on Global Health which concluded that fiscal policies are a powerful and underused lever for curbing non-communicable diseases. He has long called for international action to support the implementation of fiscal policies for health.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in over 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $702 million. For more information, please visit www.bloomberg.org or follow us on FacebookInstagramSnapchat, and Twitter.

Media Contact: Rebecca Carriero, +1 (212) 205-0182 or rebeccac@bloomberg.org