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New network to combat noncommunicable diseases

News release

Noncommunicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, cancers, diabetes, respiratory diseases and common injuries account for the vast majority of all global deaths, but because they are not yet included as priorities in the global development agenda, donors and international organizations have yet to pledge support to help developing countries address these leading health problems.

As the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meets in Geneva this week to focus on global public health commitments, many health and development leaders will call upon the international development community to integrate indicators on noncommunicable diseases and injuries into the core Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) monitoring and evaluation system.

To support these efforts, WHO today announced the launch of a network of leading organizations and experts from around the world. The network will scale up action to combat noncommunicable diseases, strengthen global partnerships and help governments plan and implement measures to reduce the burden of these diseases.

The new Global Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) will unite currently fragmented efforts by bringing the cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and respiratory communities together with tobacco control, healthy diets and physical activity advocates.

Focus on prevention and control

"Integrating the prevention of noncommunicable diseases and injuries into the national and global development agendas is not only achievable but also a priority for developing countries," said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. "The goals of the new network are to increase focus on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, to increase resource availability and to catalyse effective multi-stakeholder action at global and country levels."

Strengthened by the support of the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and leading NGOs such as the World Heart Federation, the International Diabetes Federation and the International Union against Cancer, NCDnet will advocate for action to raise the priority accorded to noncommunicable diseases in development work at global and national levels.

“Noncommunicable diseases are a serious threat to global well-being,” said Richard Samans, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum. “They present a growing economic and social challenge for many developed and developing countries. At the World Economic Forum we are committed to working with WHO, and in collaboration with other international partners, to build an effective Global Noncommunicable Disease Network.”

Challenges for policy-makers

"The challenges policy-makers face include how to address the links between noncommunicable diseases and poverty, how to minimize the health and economic losses among the economically active population, and how to prepare for the pressures on health systems resulting from the growing numbers of people with noncommunicable diseases," commented Joy Phumaphi, Vice-President of the Human Development Network of the World Bank.

"I want to highlight the glaring omission of noncommunicable diseases in the Millennium Development Goals. I believe that this is a serious omission and this anomaly should be corrected. It is in this light that I propose we seriously consider an MDG-plus which would set goals for noncommunicable diseases, as we have done for other public health challenges," commented Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy of Guyana.

Noncommunicable diseases cause 38 million deaths annually and together with injuries are responsible for 70% of all global deaths, with 80% of these deaths occurring in low-income and middle-income countries. WHO forecasts that globally, deaths from noncommunicable diseases are likely to increase by 17% over the next 10 years, with the greatest increase projected in the African Region (27%) followed by the Eastern Mediterranean Region (25%).

For further information contact:

Janet Voute
Partnerships Adviser
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 5572
Mobile: +41 79 204 4216
E-mail: voutej@who.int

Menno van Hilten
External Relations Officer
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 2675
Mobile: +41 79 457 0929
E-mail vanhiltenm@who.int

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