The multi factorial nature of the Non-Communicable Disease problem leads to the striking realization that neither individuals or families, or governments or business, or civil society or the United Nations can solve this problem alone. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) therefore supports and tries to foster collaboration and partnership within and between sectors and agencies, said PAHO Deputy Director, Dr. Jon Andrus on October 22 at the Canadian Conference on Global Health.
“The evidence of countries which have had some success in this fight also demonstrates a comprehensive prevention and control effort is what it takes”, he said.
Andrus explained said that within the Health services, PAHO supports collaboration between primary and secondary care, between different departments/initiatives working on the same problem from different angles, “to try to create synergy”. PAHO also works with the UN system to stimulate partnership between different parts of the UN, some examples of which are: with UNECLAC on the economic dimensions of NCDs; with the UNDP on joint briefings of Parliaments; with UNICEF on childhood obesity; and with ILO on healthy workplaces.
“We have worked to strengthen civil society, putting seed funding into starting civil society alliances in the Caribbean (Healthy Caribbean Coalition, a 35 member alliance) and Latin America (Coalición Latino Americana de Salud, with more than 140 members)”, Andrus said.
“And finally, we have established a platform, the Pan American Forum for Action on NCDs, with active participation of PHAC. This brings together governments, civil society and private sector, within an ethical framework, to take joint action”, he explained.
Noncommunicable diseases or chronic diseases (NCDs) causes approximately 4.5 million deaths per year in the Americas, most of which are preventable. NCDs include four main conditions, which share similar risks and determinants: cardio vascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases. There are four main behavioral risks: tobacco use and exposure, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.
“The economic dimensions of the problem are getting clearer, but the costs are staggering: an estimated $30 trillion over the next 20 years”, Andrus said. “While most of that is in the developed North, the economic impact in the LMICs is estimated at $500Billion or some 4-5% of GDP”, he added.
There are many cost effective and feasible interventions. WHO has put together called a “Best Buys” menu of the most cost effective measures, like tobacco control, reducing dietary salt, and scaling up diagnosis and preventive treatment of people with high risk of CVD, he said.
“Applied to the Americas, we estimate that just three measures, reducing tobacco by 20%, reducing salt by 15% and adequately treating 60% of people with hypertension can avoid over 3 million deaths in the next 10 years”, he highlighted. Andrus said that to work on those strategies joint efforts within the society are needed to put them in practice.
Last September, health authorities from throughout the Americas approved a new strategy that seeks a 25 percent reduction by 2025 in deaths from NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.