NEW YORK, New York, October 4, 2018 (ENS) – Heads of state and government have committed to intensify their efforts to tackle noncommunicable diseases including cancers, heart and lung diseases, stroke, and diabetes, and to promote mental health and well-being by reducing salt, sugar and transfat in foods.
The political declaration taken during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in late September reaffirms the global leadership of the World Health Organization, WHO, in the fight to beat noncommunicable diseases and promote mental health.
WHO says the rise of noncommunicable diseases is driven by four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
On September 27, the United Nations General Assembly staged the third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, which reviewed the global and national progress achieved in putting measures in place that protect people from dying too young from heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes.
Food is central to the development and relief of noncommunicable diseases. The declaration calls on food manufacturers to reformulate products to reduce salt, free sugars and saturated and industrially produced trans fats.
Food manufacturers are asked to use nutrition labeling on packaged foods to inform consumers, and to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.
“Today, world leaders have taken a set of landmark steps to beat NCDs,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. “These add up to a historic opportunity to promote health, save lives, and grow economies.”
World leaders agreed to take responsibility themselves for their own countries’ efforts to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases.
They 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.
They committed to implement a series of policies to prevent and control these diseases recommended by WHO – public education and awareness campaigns to promote healthier lifestyles, vaccinating against HPV virus to protect against cervical cancer and treating hypertension and diabetes.
WHO estimates that implementing all these policies could generate US$350 billion in economic growth in low and lower-middle-income countries between now and 2030.
Other commitments focus on halting the rise of childhood obesity, promoting regular physical activity, reducing air pollution and improving mental health and well being.
WHO has launched its third Country Profiles report to assess national progress in meeting targets to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases.
The report found that the risk of premature death from one of the four main noncommunicable diseases had declined to 18 percent in 2016, a relative reduction of five percent from 2010. But the rate of progress is unlikely to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of a one-third reduction in premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 2030.
The report also found that large gaps remain in health services and access to medicines and technologies to manage noncommunicable diseases.
Noncommunicable diseases, primarily cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes, currently account for the deaths of seven in every 10 people worldwide, 41 million, including 15 million in the prime of their lives, ages 30-69, mostly from developing countries.
Mental conditions and disorders are a related concern, with depression alone affecting 300 million people.
WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019-2023 places strong emphasis on responding to the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases and promotion of mental health, with investment in universal health coverage being at the core of national responses.
WHO has committed, during this period, to ensure one billion more people benefit from universal health coverage; one billion more people enjoy better health and well-being; and one billion more people are better protected from health emergencies.