Nations vote unanimously to fight chronic disease

July / August 2013 | Volume 12, Issue 4

Female medical worker takes blood pressure of woman seated in a clinic
Photo courtesy of Photoshare

The growing global burden of noncommunicable
diseases spurred action by representatives at the
2013 annual World Health Assembly.

In an unprecedented move against the rising tide of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), health representatives from almost 200 countries voted unanimously to focus their attention and resources on these diseases and closely monitor their progress.

The officials, attending the annual World Health Assembly, responded to the growing global burden of NCDs, which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory problems and cancers. WHO Assistant-Director General for NCDs and Mental Health, Dr. Oleg Chestnov, welcomed the promise of greater action against NCDs. "The adoption of the global action plan moves the process from the political to the practical realm."

The countries agreed to pursue nine goals. These are to cut NCD-related premature mortality by 25 percent and make measurable progress in: reducing intake of alcohol, tobacco smoke and sodium; counteracting high blood pressure and a lack of physical activity; stopping the rise in obesity and diabetes; offering people drug therapy and counseling to prevent heart attacks and strokes; and increasing access to technologies and drugs needed to treat NCDs.

WHA members have pledged to monitor their progress using a framework of 25 indicators to assess if their national strategies are being implemented sufficiently.

The WHO noted NCDs accounted for 63 percent of the 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008. Cardiovascular diseases accounted for nearly half of all NCD deaths, cancers for 21 percent, chronic respiratory diseases for 12 percent and diabetes for 3.5 percent.

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