Ottawa, 13 April 2017 (PAHO/WHO) - Although the countries of the Americas have made strides in reducing premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), they must step up efforts and innovative strategies to meet the target of a 30% reduction in NCDs by 2030, concluded experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and national NCD program managers who met in the Canadian capital on 11-12 April. 

Fourteen countries and territories are already on track to reducing premature mortality by 15% in the coming years. However, there is much yet to be done in addressing NCD risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment in order to reduce premature deaths by one third by 2030--the target to which the countries of the Region of the Americas are committed. These advances and challenges will be analyzed next year with other countries from around the world at the 3rd United Nations High-level Meeting on NCDs.

An estimated 4.8 million people die annually in the Americas from NCDs-mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases-35% of them under the age of 70.

NCDs are associated with a set of common risk factors, including tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.

Challenges in the Region

In Ottawa, representatives from national NCD prevention programs in 29 countries of the Americas evaluated advances in combatingNCDs and their risk factors, and in innovative strategies implemented to reduce premature deaths. The meeting was organized by PAHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada, and also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the regional CARMEN (Collaborative Action for Risk Factor Prevention and Effective Management of NCDs) network. CARMEN was created to promote dialogue, advocacy, and the coordination of policies and plans to reduce the burden of these diseases.

Participants at the meeting shared examples of the strategies and projects that have been the most cost-effective in cutting tobacco use and the harmful use of alcohol, and in promoting a healthy diet. According to the available figures, at least 17 countries have smoke-free space policies, and another 15 countries have health warnings printed on the packaging of tobacco products. Nearly 25 countries have carried out awareness-raising campaigns on the role of a healthy diet and physical activity in preventing NCDs, and 14 countries have policies in place to promote reduced salt intake. 

The experts discussed how to strengthen the management and surveillance of NCDs, and how to involve such sectors as education, finance, business, and city planning and transportation to promote creating healthy environments. Measures that have proven effective include taxes on tobacco products, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages; bans on advertising and sponsoring alcohol and tobacco products; the reduction of salt intake and the replacement of trans fats by unsaturated fats in ultra-processed foods; and the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. 

They also addressed strengthening primary care systems in order to improve the diagnosis and treatment of NCDs, as well as providing access to essential drugs and technologies, and the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in preventing cervical cancer, and of hepatitis B vaccination in preventing liver cancer.

About the CARMEN network

PAHO launched the CARMEN network in 1997 as a platform for dialogue, advocacy, and capacity-building. It began with five members (Canada, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico), and expanded steadily to include the rest of the countries in the Region. The network's participants are health officials and other professionals working on national NCD programs in the Americas who are responsible for the policies, programs, and health services seeking to reduce risk factors, and for NCD management and surveillance. 

Links

- CARMEN network
- Video: NCDs and Their Risk Factors