Washington, D.C., 21 September 201 (PAHO/WHO) – Health authorities from throughout the Americas this week approved a new strategy that seeks a 25 percent reduction by 2025 in deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.
Meeting that target, which was approved by the World Health Assembly earlier this year, would save an estimated 3 million lives in the Western Hemisphere.
The new strategy was approved this week during the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference, one year after the September 2012 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, where heads of state from around the world pledged to fight NCDs as “one of the major challenges for development in the 21st century.”
NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease share several common risk factors, particularly tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.
In the Americas, three of four people suffer from one of these diseases, and some 4.45 million die each year from NCDs, representing 75 percent of all deaths. Of these deaths, 1.5 million occur before age 70. NCDs also account for the largest share of avoidable healthcare costs.
In approving the strategy, the countries pledged to:
Make noncommunicable diseases a priority in national health and development plans and in social protection policies.
Establish cross-sector mechanisms that promote dialogue and partnerships on NCDs between governments and nongovernmental sectors.
Improve access to and quality of health care for NCDs and strengthen interventions for reducing their risk factors.
Strengthen surveillance and research on NCDs and evaluate the effectiveness of policies related to NCDs.
PAHO/WHO will develop a regional plan of action for carrying out the new strategy based on member countries’ priorities and aligned with a similar WHO global plan. PAHO/WHO will provide technical cooperation to help countries implement the plan, promote an all-of-society response through the formation of partnerships and national commissions, and support health services strengthening, among other measures.
During last year’s U.N. High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, PAHO/WHO launched the Pan American Forum for Action on Noncommunicable Diseases. The forum brings together representatives of government and different sectors of society to fight NCDs. The forum held its first meeting this year and is working in areas including dietary salt reduction, healthy and active lifestyles, and others.
The approval of the new strategy coincides with the second annual Wellness Week in the Americas, an initiative that seeks to create a social movement promoting healthy lifestyles and raising awareness about NCDs. PAHO/WHO is celebrating the event at its Washington, D.C., headquarters, and cities and countries throughout the Americas are carrying out related activities.
About multisectoral action on NCDs
The Pan American Forum was created to mobilize support for action against NCDs in and beyond the health sector. Examples of multisectoral action promoted by PAHO/WHO include:
- “Whole of society” approaches, including policies and regulations aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke (tobacco control).
- Health system changes, including cervical cancer prevention and screening programs, expanded access to health coverage and medicines for NCDs, and integrated care for NCDs.
- “Healthy cities” initiatives, such as “Sunday bikeway” events (Ciclovías in Spanish), which temporarily close off city streets to traffic and allow cyclists and pedestrians safe spaces for physical activity.
- “Healthy children” initiatives, including school-based exercise programs, reformulation of school meals, and elimination of junk foods in schools.
- Healthy eating initiatives, including efforts to eliminate trans fats or reduce salt in industrially produced foods, and “5-a-day” campaigns that promote fruit and vegetable consumption at the population level to lower the risks of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other nutrition-related NCDs.
PAHO celebrates its 110th anniversary this year and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the peoples of the Americas and serves as the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.