France Recommends Factoring Climate and Environment into NCD Response
France at the WHA75.

France led the call for a more integrated approach to ameliorating the global burdens of non-communicable diseases at the World Health Assembly (WHA) on Monday, appealing for climate change and environmental issues to be factored into the global response.

Speaking on behalf of some countries in the European Union at Monday’s WHA75 committee session to discuss the follow-up to the political declaration of the third high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs, France said that NCDs were increasing and affecting more and more people of all ages around the world, in particular, the most vulnerable. 

“NCDs already place a large burden on future generations as well as the budgets of states. We must have efficient programs based on an integrated health approach,” the government of France told the WHA committee session.

It called for urgent action, financing and mobilization of stakeholders to be facilitated by the global coordination mechanism. While describing WHO’s roadmap as a basis to work on, it also called for the inclusion of climate change and environmental factors which it described as being of determining importance for NCDs.

Decrying the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and local initiatives to address NCDs, France said the interruption of prevention and treatment over the course of the pandemic has led to greater inequalities in health.

France then highlighted the importance of improved pandemic preparedness in order to intensify the efforts against NCDs. This, it said, should include promoting patient-focused health education; and policies that prioritize early detection, diagnostics and better treatment in the framework of continued treatment.

Shift to primary health 

In his opening address at WHA75, WHO DG revealed that over the past five years, the global health body has supported 36 countries to integrate services to prevent, detect and treat NCDs into primary health care programmes. He added that health systems are being reorientated towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

He revealed that 90% of essential health services can be delivered through primary health care. And investing in primary health care could increase global life expectancy by as much as 6.7 years by 2030.

“We need a radical shift to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage, with a significant increase in investments in primary health care in all countries – high, middle, low income. We have seen globally that the weakness is in primary health care,” the Director-General said.

France agrees. It told the assembly that primary healthcare needs to be strengthened to be able to give people the means to better control their health and in containing the risk factors of NCDs such as the effects of alcohol, tobacco and other addictive substances, diets and sedentary lifestyles.

“Countries rely on the support of WHO and it’s essential that the preparedness and response to NCDs is also part of all emergency responses in order to allow essential healthcare services to be provided in a multi-sectoral way,” it added.

Insights from the war against diabetes 

Diabetes is one of the NCDs that its control could have far-reaching impacts on the global NCDs agenda considering its association with other health conditions and socioeconomic impacts. 

In January 2022, WHO Executive Board proposed several global targets including diagnosing 80% of people with diabetes, 80% of people with diagnosed diabetes have good control of glycaemia, 80% of people with diagnosed diabetes have good control of blood pressure, 60% of people with diabetes of 40 years or older receive statins, and 100% of people with type 1 diabetes have access to affordable insulin treatment (including devices for insulin delivery, such as syringes and needles) and blood glucose self-monitoring.

National diabetes policies and guidelines in Kenya, Mali and South Africa. Source: MSF Access Campaign.

But Dr Helen Bygrave, Chronic Diseases Advisor for Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Access Campaign said while setting global targets for response is strongly supported, more investments will be required, especially in the areas of monitoring and surveillance.

“In countries where MSF works, we have witnessed the challenges faced by people with diabetes receiving care in the public health system, who often don’t have access to the bundle of insulin, medical supplies required to inject it, and tools to monitor their blood glucose levels. It is imperative that countries consider this ‘diabetes bundle’ and its price, when forecasting, budgeting and procuring,” Bygrave stated.

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