The WHO Independent High-Level Commission on NCDs prioritises NCDs (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and respiratory diseases) and their risk factors (unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and harmful alcohol consumption) as well as mental health, and air pollution as a risk factor for NCDs.
The International Diabetes Federation, in attendance at the hearing, calls on leaders and health ministers of the 193 United Nations Member countries to reduce the burden of diabetes and its risk factors, including unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák opened the interactive hearing and called for more efforts to control NCDs. “We are not on track for the 2030 deadlines. For the first time in history, NCDs are killing more people than infectious diseases,” he said. “NCDs are now responsible for two-thirds of all global deaths.” Opening speakers included, Dr. Svetlana Axelrod, Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health, World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Sania Nishtar, Co-chair, WHO independent High-level Commission on NCDs, and James Chau, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for SDGs and Health who in a passionate plea for stronger advocacy asked, “Are we not all being too polite? SDG 3.4 is a citizen, customer and consumer. It is all of us. Health is a fundamental core of our human rights. NCDs are rooted in inequality.” On the matter of affordable treatment Chau asked the assembly, “Why is insulin not accessible or affordable? Why can’t we help the more than 400 million people with diabetes?”
In recent years, awareness of the NCDs crisis has been growing with the UN and WHO calling for action on the issue in several international forums. The UN high-level meeting on NCDs in 2011 resulted in a Political Declaration, in which multiple commitments were made for the prevention and management of NCDs by countries, and multilateral and donor agencies. WHO member states agreed to a 25% reduction in premature NCD mortality by 2025. In 2014, Member States adopted an Outcome Document of the UN General Assembly, which included four time-bound commitments using 10 progress indicators for implementation in 2016-2017. Unfortunately, progress towards fulfilling commitments has been disappointing with 83 countries having made poor or no progress. In 2015, countries agreed to the “SDG target 3 – “to ensure healthy lives and general well-being” with a specific NCD target: a one-third reduction of premature NCD mortality by 2030 through prevention and treatment of NCDs and the promotion of mental health and well-being (SDG 3.4). SDB target 3b calls for support for research and development of, and provide access to vaccines and medicines that primarily affect developing countries. Countries made an additional commitment to act on nutrition and unhealthy diets, including actions to reduce the consumption of sugars, sodium and fats. In summary, it is widely accepted by the Independent High-level Commission on NCDs that unless there is a serious change in approach and more action, SDG 3.4 will not be attained, adversely affecting the health of future generations. Obstacles for many proven interventions for NCDs include: lack of political will, commitment, capacity and action; lack of policies and plans for NCDs; and the impact of economic, commercial and market factors.
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