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New global drive to tackle non-communicable diseases

More than a dozen countries unite to fight disease

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 19 February 2018

A new multi-national drive has been launched to fight non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart and lung disease, cancers, and diabetes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) group, described as a high-level commission, is made up of heads of state and ministers, leaders in health and development, and entrepreneurs.

The group, called the WHO Independent Global High-level Commission on NCDs, said it would propose bold and innovative solutions to accelerate prevention and control of NCDs globally.

It will be co-chaired by president Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay; president Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka; president Sauli Niinistö of Finland; Veronika Skvortsova, minister of healthcare of the Russian Federation; and Sania Nishtar, former federal minister of Pakistan.

As many as seven in 10 deaths globally every year are caused by NCDs and the main contributors to these are tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity.

It is estimated that more than 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 years die from NCDs annually and low and lower-middle income countries are increasingly affected.

The new commission group said many lives could be saved from NCDs through early diagnosis and improved access to quality and affordable treatment, as well as a whole-of-government approach to reduce the main risk factors.

Co-chair Dr Vázquez said: “NCDs are the world’s leading avoidable killers but the world is not doing enough to prevent and control them. We have to ask ourselves if we want to condemn future generations from dying too young, and living lives of ill health and lost opportunity. The answer clearly is no.

“But there is so much we can do to safeguard and care for people, from protecting everyone from tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy foods and sugary drinks, to giving people the health services they need to stop NCDs in their tracks.”

The new commission was established by WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and is scheduled to run until October 2019.

The plan is for the commission to provide actionable recommendations to contribute to the third United Nations general assembly high-level meeting on NCDs scheduled for the second half of this year.

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