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Published in: 07/15/2014

WHO highlights need for countries to scale up action on noncommunicable diseases

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 As world leaders gather at the United Nations General Assembly to assess efforts made since 2011 in controlling
noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, the new WHO NCD Country Profiles 2014 show progress has been insufficient and uneven.

The report provides an updated overview of the NCD situation including recent
trends and government responses in 194 countries. It reveals that

95% of the countries that responded to the most recent survey have a designated Ministry of Health department or unit to tackle NCDs;
half the world’s countries have a plan and a budget to address these diseases;
the number of countries monitoring the main risk factors – such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol – has doubled since 2010. 

“I see no lack of commitment. I see a lack of capacity to act, especially in the developing world,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Our latest
data show that 85% of premature deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries.  The challenges presented by these diseases are enormous.”

The country profiles include estimates 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. The profiles also assess 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.

Every year 38 million people (28 million in developing countries) die 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.  NCD deaths have increased the most in WHO’s South-East Asia and
Western Pacific Regions.

More than 190 governments have agreed to a WHO global action plan to halt the epidemic and reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025. World leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York to review progress in recent years and discuss how to intensify action to reduce the burden of NCDs.

During the World Health Assembly in 2013, WHO’s 194 Member States endorsed theWHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020. The plan offers  a menu of policy options for countries, global partners and other organizations which, when implemented collectively will attain 9 voluntary global targets, including that of a 25% relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.

“WHO has established a global infrastructure to stop the rise in noncommunicable diseases and  is supporting countries to accelerate progress,” says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, “in particular in less-developed countries that are already bearing the brunt of the NCD burden and need our assistance.”