NCDs Finally Get Attention at Presidential Level
Diabetes protest in South Africa

After years of being the neglected stepchild of global health, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) might finally be getting the urgent attention they need with Tuesday’s launch of an international NCD compact and presidential group.

The measures were announced at the International Strategic Dialogue on NCDs and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) co-hosted by the governments of Ghana and Norway and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mike Bloomberg, the WHO Global NCD Ambassador, told the Accra meeting via video that global investment in NCDs was a “pitiful 1-2% of global health funding”.

Very few countries are on track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 3.4, which commits member states to “reduce by one-third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and wellbeing by 2030”.

But the NCD Alliance says that the compact and Presidential Council on NCDs (NCD Presidential Group) “could be a turning point in the fight against chronic diseases, which is responsible for 74 % of deaths annually”, finally demonstrating the political will needed to address the world’s biggest killer.


WHO member states and leaders will be encouraged to sign up to both the compact and the presidential group and “align strategies and operations with universal commitments made to accelerate and scale up the global collective efforts to prevent and control NCDs and achieve universal health coverage”, according to an outcome document from Tuesday’s meeting.

“The NCD Compact is a living document and will be updated on a yearly basis by its current and future signatories among Heads of State and Governments to navigate in preparation of the next UN High-level meeting on NCDs in 2025 and going forward towards 2030,” the document states.

“Two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic, there can no longer be any doubt about the case for investing in NCDs,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance.

“COVID-19 has upended health systems, drained economies and disproportionately affected people living with NCDs. This pandemic must be a wake-up call for governments and political leaders to value, prioritise and invest in healthy societies, NCD prevention and strong 

According to the NCD Alliance, 39 million lives could be saved before 2030 if an additional $18 billion is annually on implementing packages of cost-effective NCD interventions, tailored to local disease burden and risk factors. 

“This would also generate an average net economic benefit of $2.7 trillion, or $390 per capita, equal to a 19 to one return on investment,” said the alliance, referring to recent research published in The Lancet.

The Accra meeting was addressed by a variety of high-profile leaders, particularly from Africa and the Caribbean, including a number of First Ladies who have an active international forum aimed at preventing NCDs.

Co-host Norweigan Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that most of the premature deaths from NCDs can be avoided, and governments “must intensify our efforts to prevent and control them”.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley lamented that only 14 countries were on track to achieving SGD 3.4, 11 years after the first UN high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases and seven years after the adoption of the SDGs.

September meeting

The President of Ghana will chair the first meeting of the Presidential Council on NCDs, which will take place in September during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Meanwhile, the International NCD Compact 2022-2030 contains strategic priorities to accelerate action and encourage countries to reach SDG targets on NCDs by 2030.

 According to the NCD Alliance, 41 million people die every year due to an NCD and annual deaths from NCDs are projected to escalate to 52 million by 2030. 

“To put these figures into perspective, in 2020 annual deaths from tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS reached 1.5 million, 627,000, and 680,000 respectively.

Meanwhile, deaths attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, from its beginning in 2019 to April 2022, are nearing six million, and 60-90% of these deaths are in people living with one or more NCD.

Image Credits: Kerry Cullinan.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.