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WHO calls for scaled-up action on noncommunicable diseases

Xinhua, July 11, 2014 Adjust font size:

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday reported the progress achieved in the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), highlighting the need for countries to scale up action to battle NCDs.

Although many countries have made progress in tackling the " epidemic" of NCDs, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, current global mortality from NCDs remains " unacceptably high and is increasing," said a new WHO report.

The "Noncommunicable diseases country profiles 2014" report, released Thursday at the UN General Assembly, painted a picture of recent trends and government responses to NCDs in 194 countries.

It revealed that 38 million people (28 million in developing countries) die every year from NCDs, nearly 16 million of them prematurely - before they reach the age of 70. The number of NCD deaths has increased worldwide and in every region since 2000, most in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific Regions.

"These premature deaths are largely preventable by governments implementing simple measures which reduce risk factors for NCDs and enable health systems to respond," the report said. "Bolder measures are urgent to accelerate efforts to address NCDs and mitigate their impacts."

The report included estimation on the current burden and recent trends in NCD deaths and risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, high blood pressure and obesity. It also assessed countries' capacity to take action. Many of the 178 countries that responded to the most recent WHO survey have made progress in tackling the epidemic.

World leaders on Thursday gathered at the UN headquarters for a two-day meeting about a high-level review and assessment on the progress made, while discussing how to intensify action to reduce the burden of NCDs.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan said, "I see no lack of commitment. I see a lack of capacity to act, especially in the developing world," pointing to data showing that 85 percent of premature deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries.

"Challenges remain enormous and demand a fundamental change in the way social progress is measured, the way governments work, the way responsibilities are assigned and the way boundaries of different government sectors are defined," Chan said.

Highlighting that these chronic diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the world's leading cause of morbidity and mortality, she urged a "seismic shift" that calls for sweeping changes in the very mindset of public health.

She also called the General Assembly's 2011 Political Declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases "a watershed moment," highlighting that it enticed bold commitments to act while putting prevention forward as the cornerstone of a global response.

That political declaration gave WHO a leadership role, together with several time-bound assignments to tackle NCDs.

In September 2011, WHO released the first set of Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles, highlighting the status of NCDs in each WHO member state. This second set of profiles built on this earlier report and provided an updated overview of the NCD situation for each country.

The focus in these new profiles is on presenting information for each country related to their NCD mortality, risk factors and national systems capacity to prevent and control NCDs.

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