In the first international strategic dialogue, hosted by Ghana and Norway, WHO members agreed on a new Global Compact to fight NCDs worldwide. They also agreed to form a working group to more efficiently achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target, which aims to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one-third by 2030.
“In addition to the lives they take, NCDs have a major impact on economies, reducing the number of people in their most productive years. Overcoming this challenge requires technical, financial and, above all, political commitment. said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, are usually long-term and result from genetic, physiological and environmental factors.
The most common NCDs are cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, killing seven out of 10 people and resulting from risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and air pollution.
Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway, said: “Investing in stronger health systems, service delivery and NCD prevention will make vulnerable populations more resilient to COVID-19 and future pandemics. This is also vital to promoting universal health coverage.”
Economics were at the center of conversations, and WHO members highlighted the benefits of investing in NCDs. Norway, for example, became the first donor country to include CNCD prevention in its international development strategy.
NCDs are largely preventable and treatable, according to the global compact, which says an investment of US$0.84 per person per year by 2030 could save nearly seven million lives.
“This investment would generate over US$230 billion in economic and social benefits and prevent nearly 10 million heart attacks and strokes worldwide by 2030,” the WHO press release said.
The first meeting of the DNTs working group is scheduled for September 2022.
the five commitments
The new NCD group set out a list of five commitments, starting with preventing 50 million premature NCD-related deaths by 2030 by implementing the most cost-effective measures to prevent and control disease.
They also aim to protect the 1.7 billion people suffering from NCDs by ensuring them equal access to medicines and care, especially during a humanitarian disaster situation.
Although the discussions do not explicitly mention it, this commitment appears to refer to the situation in Ukraine, where 4.6 million people have fled since the Russian invasion in February.
En route to exile, refugees with NCDs may not have access to their treatments for several days at a time. “We can see diseases that we didn’t see before just because you are interrupting a treatment”, warned Professor Maurizio Cecconi, president of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM), in an interview with EURACTIV.
The other three points of the Global Compact focus on mainstreaming NCDs into primary health care, monitoring NCDs around the world, and integrating people living with NCDs and mental health problems into policy-making.
NCDs responsible for 80% of illnesses in the EU
In Europe, NCDs are responsible for 80% of diseases and are the main causes of preventable premature deaths, according to the Commission, which aims to support EU countries to achieve the nine voluntary targets of the WHO by 2025, as well as the SDGs .
As the human and financial costs of NCDs are likely to increase in the coming years, the Commission is also working on an initiative called Healthier Together to help EU countries tackle NCDs.
The plan focuses on five key points: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, mental health, and neurological disorders and health determinants. The EU strategy is to combine prevention and health systems strengthening.
The Healthier Together initiative was created in addition to the European Plan to Combat Cancer, as cancer is the second leading cause of death in Europe, after cardiovascular disease. Each year, 2.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer and 1.2 million die, but 40% of cancers are preventable, according to the Commission.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]