Agencies join to warn on chronic diseases and COVID-19 pandemic


Inter-American Task Force includes PAHO, ECLAC, IDB, OAS, and World Bank warned that the slow implementation of solutions to prevent or control these diseases is contributing to the pandemic and may have long-term consequences

Washington, September 22, 2020 (PAHO)  – Concerned about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), the member agencies of the Inter-American Task Force have warned of the consequences if countries don’t step up to improve prevention and control programs, and pledged to work jointly on the issue.

The Inter-American Task Force on NCDs, which includes the Pan American Health Organization, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, and the World Bank, issued a “Joint statement on non-communicable diseases and COVID-19.”

“Cost-effective solutions exist for the prevention and control of NCDs. However, slow action by countries in the Region to implement these interventions is now contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic and may lead to long-term consequences if existing policies are further weakened,” the agencies highlighted in the statement.

As we reconstruct and transform our economies, our social protection and health systems post COVID-19, we need to pay critical attention to the prevention, early diagnosis and management of noncommunicable diseases.”

Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization

Underlying noncommunicable diseases and associated risk factors such as tobacco smoking, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, the agencies noted, “Lead to severe cases of COVID-19 and increased likelihood of death, particularly affecting vulnerable groups of all ages, and are underpinned by the principal social determinants of health.”

They said that effective action to control these non-communicable diseases “requires an approach across government sectors — as well as civil society driven multisectoral approaches” to support measures that can reduce risk factors for NCDs.

But, the statement noted, “Such measures usually face strong opposition from industries involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of harmful products such as tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, and ultraprocessed foods.

The Task Force agreed on a series on measures that include promoting policies to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working together to  respond to COVID-19, and in the post-pandemic period, to strengthen NCD risk factor policies and improve the health system response for NCDs. Other measures were to foster policy and regulatory interventions in support of health protection, reduction of NCD risk factors, and health care services that are equitable, accessible, and affordable, and to advocate for sustainable, health-promoting food systems in the post COVID-19 regional and national responses.


Sebastian Oliel
Ashley Baldwin