Much of the global NCD burden can be prevented if healthy options were the natural ones with regard to the many daily choices that all people make. Making it easy for people to enjoy healthy diets and engage in sufficient amounts of daily physical activity are important aspects of this approach.
According to the WHO, 2.7 million lives could be saved annually by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. One way of realizing this potential gain is by targeting price barriers surrounding these foods. Interventions and incentives such as food taxes, subsidies, price promotions, vouchers and rewards have all been shown to be effective. Tax revenues can subsequently be channelled towards health promotion efforts to multiply the positive impact. Food suppliers can also be incentivized to provide healthy food by applying a ‘polluter pays’ principle to the industry. This would require companies to compensate for proven health costs of unhealthy foods high in, for example, sodium. Alternatively, in lower-income settings, mechanisms such as conditional cash transfers can be a powerful social investment and an effective means of enabling healthy food choices.
Equally, seeing as physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide, designing dense cities that facilitate movement is also an important enabler of health for people at all income levels. Since people spend 70 to 90 percent of their time indoors, creating workplaces, schools and homes that facilitate physical activity can help to combat the growing problem of sedentary lifestyles. Businesses stand to benefit from a more productive workforce while easing the pressure on national health systems. On the city-wide level of urban planning policy, infrastructure that enables active transportation such as biking lanes or pedestrian-friendly roads can generate financial gains while improving health prospects for entire populations.