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The UN tackles noncommunicable diseases

Note for the media

WHO welcomes the adoption last night of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases - mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes - which kill nearly 35 million people each year, including almost 9 million before the age of 60.

The resolution seeks to halt the increasing trends in premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases worldwide.

"There is a sense of urgency," says WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Ala Alwan. "This resolution will help us increase action to address the leading cause of death in the world. Tackling these diseases constitutes one of the major challenges for sustainable development in the twenty-first century."

The resolution calls to:

  • convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly in September 2011, with the participation of Heads of State and Government, on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases;
  • include at the high-level Plenary Meeting next September to review the Millennium Development Goals discussions on the rising incidence and the socio-economic impact of noncommunicable diseases in developing countries;
  • request the UN Secretary-General to prepare a global status report on noncommunicable diseases, with a particular focus on the developmental challenges faced by developing countries.

A leading cause of death for women

Noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death for women in middle- and high-income countries and the second leading cause of death for women in low-income countries. Almost 90% of fatalities before the age of 60 occur in developing countries and can be largely prevented by reducing the level of exposure to tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol, and improve early detection of breast and cervical cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

While noncommunicable disease death rates in many high-income countries have stabilized or declined in recent decades, research suggests noncommunicable disease deaths are increasing in all regions of the world. If trends continue unabated, deaths will rise to an estimated 41.2 million a year by 2015.

This recent resolution comes on the heels of the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the ECOSOC high-level segment in July last year, which called for urgent action to implement the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and its related Action Plan endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2008 as well as the Doha Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries issued by the participants of the ECOSOC/UNESCWA/WHO Western Asia Ministerial Meeting organized in May 2009.

For more information contact:

Mr Menno van Hilten
External Relations Officer
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 2675
Mobile phone: +41 79 457 0929
E-mail: vanhiltenm@who.int

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