WHO Commission calls for urgent action against Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) (1 June 2018)

A new report of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Independent High-level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) calls for urgent action to address chronic diseases and mental health disorders.

Key Messages:

Together, cancer, diabetes, lung and heart diseases kill 41 million people annually, accounting for 71% of all deaths globally.

15 million of these deaths occur between the ages of 30 and 70 years.

The new report focuses attention on growing, but often neglected, challenges like mental disorders and obesity.

The Commission makes six recommendations in its report:

  1. Heads of State and Government should take responsibility for the NCD agenda, rather than delegating it to ministers of health alone, as it requires collaboration and cooperation across many sectors.
  2. Governments should identify and implement a specific set of priorities within the overall NCD and mental health agenda, based on public health needs.
  3. Governments should reorient health systems to include NCDs prevention and control and mental health services in their universal health coverage policies and plans.
  4. Governments should increase effective regulation, appropriate engagement with the private sector, academia, civil society, and communities.
  5. Governments and the international community should develop a new economic paradigm for funding actions on NCDs and mental health.
  6. Governments need to strengthen accountability to their citizens for action on NCDs and simplify existing international accountability mechanisms.

Details of Recommendations

  1. Start from the topA. Heads of State and Government, not Ministers of Health only, should oversee the process of creating ownership at national level of NCDs and mental health.

    B. Political leaders at all levels should take responsibility for comprehensive local actions, together with the health sector, that can advance action against NCDs and mental disorders.

  2. Prioritize and scale upA.  Governments should identify and implement a specific set of priorities within the overall NCD and mental health agenda, based on public health needs.
  3. Embed and Expand NCDs: Within health systems and Universal Health Coverage (UHC)A.  Governments should identify and implement a specific set of priorities within the overall NCD and mental health agenda, based on public health needs.

    B. Strengthen primary health services to ensure equitable coverage

    C. Identify synergies in existing chronic-care platforms (such as TB and HIV) to jumpstart NCD and mental health services.

  4. Collaborate and RegulateA. Governments must take the lead in creating health-protecting environments through robust laws and dialogue, based on the “health is the priority” principle,
    including clear objectives, transparency, and agreed targets.  Dialogue must not, however, replace regulation in cases where regulation is the most or the only effective measure.

    B. Governments should be encouraged to engage constructively with the private sector—except the tobacco industry-  to seek ways to strengthen commitments and contributions to achieving public health goals, in accordance with the mandate of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    C. Governments should work with:

    food and non-alcoholic beverage companies;
    the leisure and sports industries;
    the transportation industry;
    the pharmaceutical industry and vaccine manufacturers; and
    technology companies.

    D. Governments should give priority to restricting the marketing of unhealthy products (those containing excessive amounts of sugars, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats) to children.

    E. Both fiscal incentives and disincentives should be considered to encourage healthy lifestyles by

    promoting the consumption of healthy products and
    decreasing the marketing, availability, and consumption of unhealthy products.

    F. Governments should ensure the meaningful engagement and participation of civil society and people living with NCDs and mental disorders

    G. People with mental health conditions and civil society must be engaged to effectively end discrimination and human rights violations, and be involved in the planning of mental health services.

    H. Governments should increase the empowerment of individuals to take action by actively promoting health literacy, including in formal education curricula, and targeted information and communication campaigns.

    I. WHO should support governments’ efforts to engage with the private sector for the prevention and control of NCDs, including any necessary regulatory action, taking into consideration the rationale, principles, benefits, and risks, as well as the management of conflicts of interest in such engagement.

  5. FinanceA. National governments should

    —Develop and implement a new economic paradigm for actions against NCDs, based on evidence that effective measures are investments in human capital and economic growth.
    — Increase the percentage of national budgets allocated to health, health promotion, and essential public health functions, and within health, to NCDs and mental health.
    — Implement fiscal measures, including raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and consider evidence-based fiscal measures for other unhealthy products.

    B. The international community should

    – Increase financing and lending for the prevention and management of NCDs through bilateral and multilateral channels;
    – Integrate NCDs into human-capital and human development indices.
    – Convene a health forum for investors to support action against NCDs

    C. WHO should prioritize NCDs and mental health. This requires that Member States consider increasing or reallocating their contributions to the Organization so that WHO can meet the demand for country support.

  6. Act for accountabilityA. Governments should create or strengthen national accountability mechanisms, taking into account the global NCD accountability mechanism and health impact assessments.

    B. WHO should simplify the existing NCD accountability mechanism and establish clear tracking and accountability for the highest impact programmes that can lead to achievement of SDG target 3.4, including a harmonised Countdown 2030 for NCDs and mental health.

Recommendations of WHO Commission on NCDs

Useful Links:

Link to the related WHO news release:

http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/01-06-2018-commission-calls-for-urgent-action-against-chronic-diseases

Link to the Report:

http://www.who.int/ncds/management/time-to-deliver/en/

Link to a Summary of the report (English) [PDF]:

http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272719/WHO-NMH-NVI-18.12-eng.pdf?ua=1

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