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New global drive to tackle non-communicable diseases

13 steps to fight NCDs includes improving mental health

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 28 September 2018

Leaders of many countries have committed to 13 new steps designed to scale up efforts to prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancers, heart and lung diseases, stroke, and diabetes, and to promote mental health and wellbeing.

During a meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, yesterday, heads of state and government signed up to a series of World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended policies.

These mean that countries must implement policies to prevent and control NCDs, such as public education and awareness campaigns to promote healthier lifestyles, vaccinating against HPV virus to protect against cervical cancer and treating hypertension and diabetes.

The agreement also means that world leaders have agreed that these efforts should include robust laws and fiscal measures to protect people from tobacco, unhealthy foods, and other harmful products, for example by restricting alcohol advertising, banning smoking, and taxing sugary drinks.

Implementation of all these policies could generate US$ 350bn in economic growth in low and lower-middle-income countries between now and 2030, WHO estimated.

Other commitments focus on halting the rise of childhood obesity, promoting regular physical activity, reducing air pollution and improving mental health and wellbeing.

The political declaration is being described as a reaffirmation of WHO’s global leadership of the fight to beat NCDs and promote mental health, while also urging WHO to continue working closely with partners, including government, civil society and the private sector.

In particular, WHO has called on food manufacturers to take action by reformulating products to reduce salt, free sugars and saturated and industrially produced trans fats, using nutrition labelling on packaged food to inform consumers, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “Today, world leaders have taken a set of landmark steps to beat NCDs. These add up to a historic opportunity to promote health, save lives, and grow economies.”

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