Organ Transplants and Mental Health in Conflicts Feature in WHO Session on Non-Communicable Disease
WHO executive board members take an exercise break.

Discussion about non-communicable diseases (NCDs) opened a Pandora’s Box of problems at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) executive board meeting on Wednesday.

Not a single country is on track to achieve all nine voluntary global NCD targets for 2025, according to the Director-General’s report, which appealed to member countries for input on how they can accelerate progress towards reducing premature mortality from NCDs by one-third by 2030 (Sustainable Development Goal target 3.4).

New proposals to improve measures to protect mental health in armed conflicts, and increasing the availability of organ transplants in global NCD measures were also presented for further discussion.

“The mental health and psychological needs of people affected by armed conflict. natural and human caused disasters and other emergencies require actions beyond those identified by the WHO comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030,” said Ukraine, which has proposed a new resolution, supported by the Netherlands, which will be tabled at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May.

However, most member states acknowledged that efforts to address mental health in everyday life was inadequate.

“Mental health conditions encompass a multitude of illnesses that need to be recognised, diagnosed and treated,” noted Denmark, which urged WHO to work to “better ensure that mental health is recognised in its own right as a key global health agenda”. 

“Mental health is essential but constantly constantly challenged by stigma, discrimination, conflict and dynamics and natural hazards. We owe it to our children and young people to take this seriously,” Denmark concluded, thanking WHO for it’s recommendation to decriminalise suicide.

Organ transplants

Spain, supported by Brazil and China, co-sponsored a recommendation to “increase the availability, ethical access and oversight of transplantation of human cells, tissues and organs”. 

Spain told the EB that only around 10% of transplant needs were met globally, and that expanded access could reduce NCD mortality.The resolution, which has consensus, will be tabled at the WHA.

A plethora of other concerns were raised by countries, including lack of access to oral care globally, inadequate targets for dementia.

Many countries also focused on how to address key NCD drivers more efficiently – tobacco, alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise.

While many countries have been successful in reducing tobacco consumption, less progress has been made against alcohol consumption and poor diet.

Senegal, for the 47 Africa region members, called for support to collect data on NCDs “so that policies can be based on under scientific evidence”.

It also called for  “more financial resources to promote health and prevent these conditions through strengthening innovative financing mechanisms including tobacco taxation, and the taxation of sugary drinks and alcohol and indeed, developing public-private partnerships,” noted Senegal.

Japan pointed out that targets in the dementia global action plan for diagnosis and treatment would be missed in 2025, and  requested that the plan be extended after 2025. 

A fourth United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs has been planned for September 2025, and the current WHO decisions on NCDs will feed into this.

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