Concrete Action is What Will Count Against Non-Communicable Diseases, Urges Tedros After Marathon Discussions
Dr Tedros urges implementation of NCD policies.

While the World Health Assembly adopted a raft of roadmaps, strategies and resolutions to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on Friday, what was important was their implementation, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of concerted action against non-communicable diseases, which account for 85% of all premature mortality in low and middle-income countries,” said Tedros,  Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The package of strategies, roadmaps, action plans, work plans and recommendations you’re about to adopt provide important evidence-based tools that could save many lives. But what matters is not adopting them, but implementing them. What happens in this room is important only in as much as it translates into concrete change,” Tedros challenged.

“The growing burden of NCDs highlights the many threats to health in the food people eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe and the conditions in which they live and work,” said Tedros.

While diabetes and obesity are rising globally, tobacco use has declined in 150 countries and 58 countries had policies to eliminate trans fat from food, he added.

“Tobacco use remains too, high physical activities too low and 99% of the world’s population raises air that exceeds WHO air quality limits,” he said.

“The great tragedy of NCDs is that many of these diseases are preventable and treatable when people have access to the services they need. That’s why it’s so crucial that all member states prioritise resources to integrate services for NCDs and their risk factors into primary health care as part of their journey towards universal health coverage.”

Huge treatment gap for epilepsy

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Deputy Director-General.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Deputy Director-General, pointed out that more than 50 million people with epilepsy live in low and lower middle-income countries, but the treatment gap is over 75% in most low-income countries and 50% in most middle-income countries.

Jakab said that the neurological manifestations of COVID 19 infection had also highlighted the importance of addressing neurological conditions such as epilepsy.

“COVID-19 condition, disruption of services, medication inaccessibility, interruption in vaccination programmes and increased mental health issues have added to the burden of those with neurological disorders,” said Jakab, adding that the action plan represents an unprecedented opportunity to address the impact of neurological disorders.

“Meanwhile, the alcohol-attributable disease burden continues to be unacceptably high and there is a need to accelerate action on reducing the harmful use of alcohol,” she added.

Dr Ren Minghui, WHO Assistant Director-General of communicable and non-communicable diseases within universal health coverage, highlighted that disorders of the nervous systems are “the leading cause of disability-adjusted life course and the second leading cause of deaths globally”, accounting for 9 million deaths per year. 

“In addition, every 10 seconds a person died from alcohol-related causes.”

“People living with neurology disorders continue to experience stigma, discrimination and human rights violation,” he added.

With regard to alcohol, some member states had asked for guidance on how to protect alcohol policy from commercial interests and this would be provided by the WHO Secretariat, Minghui added.

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