17 November, 2010 - Port-of-Spain — Health advocates concerned about the high toll of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the Americas are meeting this week in Trinidad to discuss priorities for action and to plan for next year's special United Nations summit on chronic diseases.

Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases account for nearly two-thirds of all deaths in the Americas. Many of these deaths are largely preventable through comprehensive, multisectoral action to reduce common risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.

The annual CARMEN Policy Observatory meeting is titled "Building the Case for Chronic Disease Prevention Policy and Action." It is being co-hosted by the Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Sixty participants are attending, representing governments, international organizations, and civil society from 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as the United States and Canada.

Participants will discuss how countries can overcome challenges faced in developing policies needed to implement the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on an Integrated Approach to the Prevention and Control of Chronic Diseases. The meeting is also expected to produce an action plan detailing the region's priorities, to be used to support the UN Summit on Chronic Diseases.

"The countries of the Americas are facing an explosion of chronic diseases," says Dr. James Hospedales, PAHO Senior Advisor in Prevention and Control of Chronic Diseases. "But we have a strong and growing commitment among public health advocates in our region to fight this epidemic using effective, evidence-based interventions."

In 2007, the CARICOM grouping of Caribbean Heads of Government issued their Port-of-Spain declaration on Uniting to Stop the Epidemic of Chronic NCDs. CARICOM was also a key supporter of next September's United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and mental health.

"The Caribbean region is a leader in the fight against cancer, diabetes, chronic lung diseases, and heart diseases and stroke," says Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable diseases and mental health. "The CARMEN consultation is the latest in a series of efforts from the Americas that have helped advance the issue of NCD prevention and control."

The UN summit has been called to tackle the health, development and socioeconomic challenges posed by the global NCD crisis, which claims the lives of more than 35 million people annually. This number includes 9 million deaths that occur before the age of 60 years and that can largely be prevented or delayed through with measures widely available today.

Since 2004, the CARMEN Policy Observatory has been supporting a network of 32 countries across the Americas in chronic disease policy. The observatory supports chronic disease policy research; knowledge development and transfer of policy; and training and capacity building for public policy development and evaluation. For more information, see:


  • C. James Hospedales
    Senior Advisor, Prevention & Control of Chronic Diseases
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  • Paul Garwood
    Communications Officer
    Noncommunicable diseases and mental health (NMH)
    World Health Organization
    Mob: +41-794755546
    Off: +41-22-791-3462
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