Call for UN action to avert world's fastest growing health threat:
29 July 2009
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the International Union
Against Cancer (UICC) and the World Heart Federation (WHF) have called
on the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to take immediate
action to avert the fastest growing threat by non-communicable diseases
(NCDs) to global health.
NCDs which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and
chronic respiratory disease, cause 60% of all deaths globally and 80% of
these are in low- and middle-income countries. WHO projects that
globally NCD deaths will increase by 17% over the next 10 years. The
greatest increase will be seen in the African region (27%) and the
Eastern Mediterranean region (25%). The highest absolute number of
deaths will occur in the W Pacific and SE Asia regions.
The global call, issued by the three organizations at the meeting of
the UN ECOSOC in Geneva, demands five essential actions:
- Call for an ‘MDG Plus’ containing NCD progress indicators in the
2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) review.
- Support the availability of essential medicines for people
living with NCDs .
- Support a UN General Assembly Special Session on NCDs.
- Support the immediate and substantial increase of funding for
- Integrate NCD prevention into national health systems and the
global development agenda .
The UN Millennium Development Goals state that health is critical to
the economic, political and social development of all countries, yet
they contain no goals or targets for NCDs, which are the largest threat
to health systems.
Public health experts are expecting ECOSOC leaders to show the way in
confronting this health crisis faced by millions. The emerging epidemic
of NCDs is threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems worldwide unless
action is taken.
“This tsunami didn’t arise yesterday; it evolved over time and is
getting worse. We need a revolution to change the trajectory if we are
serious,” stated Dr Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Health, Guyana at a WHO
Ministerial breakfast meeting earlier this month.
The World Economic Forum’s 2009 Global Risks report supports this
with evidence that the incidence of chronic disease is rising across
both the developed and developing world. Medical advances and awareness
can reduce the risk severity but chronic non-communicable diseases are
still the main cause of death worldwide.
Evidence shows that up to 80% of NCDs can be prevented by addressing
risk factors like unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use
and those that are non-preventable can be treated inexpensively with
essential medicines. While medicines such as aspirin, penicillin,
insulin and morphine have been on the Essential Medicines List for
years, they still remain beyond the reach of many.
The three NGOs request that the final declaration of the ECOSOC High
Level Segment includes a call for NCD indicators to be included in the
2010 review of the MDGs to form an ‘MDG Plus’, as this fast emerging
global threat has not, to date, been addressed.
The three organizations together represent 730 member organizations
in over 170 countries and vast networks of healthcare professionals,
patient, and civil society organizations. They have joined forces to
create a powerful voice for change and urge ECOSOC to take action in the
face of the NCD epidemic.
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