PAHO Director launches Better Care for NCDs: a new initiative to improve diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases through Primary Health Care

Madre and daughter enjoying together time

Washington, DC, September 27, 2023 (PAHO)- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa today launched a new initiative, Better Care for NCDs: Accelerating Actions in Primary Health Care, to expand access to non-communicable disease (NCD) services within Primary Health Care systems. The launch took place during an event on the sidelines of the Organization’s 60th Directing Council, taking place from 25-29 September this week.  

Ensuring Primary Health Care Services to address NCDs that are “high quality, safe, comprehensive, integrated, accessible, available and affordable for everyone must be our guiding principle,” Dr Barbosa, Director of PAHO, said.

“This initiative aims to accelerate the integration of NCD management into primary health care services, building upon existing efforts with a steadfast focus on reaching the underserved, guided by the principles of equity, so that no one is left behind,” he added.

NCDs, principally cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading causes of death in the Region of the Americas, accounting for 81% of lives lost. An estimated 240 million adults in the Region live with at least one NCD, requiring access to continuous care, delivered through primary health care.

While the Americas has made, “commendable progress in addressing NCDs,” significant gaps persist in access, coverage, and quality of health services for the diagnosis and treatment of NCDs, which were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Barbosa highlighted.

As it stands, no country in the Region is on track to meet the World Health Organization’s nine global NCD targets by 2025, with only 57% of countries reporting having guidelines for the management of all four common NCDs, and 26% reporting offering drug therapy, including for diabetes control, and counseling for eligible individuals at high risk, to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

To address this, the Better Care for NCDs initiative aims to ensure the following:

  • Strengthen the capacity of health authorities to plan and implement comprehensive NCD services in primary health care;
  • Increase the capacity of primary care services to deliver comprehensive quality NCD screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up;
  • Strengthen data collection and monitoring of NCD diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of care.  

As part of the initiative, the PAHO Regional Revolving Funds will offer Member States an NCD bundle, to enable countries to access high-quality, affordable medicines to treat diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as diagnostic tests and vital equipment such as blood glucose monitoring devices and blood pressure monitoring devices.

Access to NCD care within Primary Health Care systems is vital, not only for preventing disease in future generations, but also for preventing complications and premature death in those currently living with one of more NCD, Dr. Barbosa said.

During the launch Chile, El Salvador, and Jamaica showcased their advances on how to incorporate NCDs into primary health care and on how to expand services to reach more people.