Preventing and controlling noncommunicable diseases

News release

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol are the major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases.

Representatives of 18 countries will gather today through Friday at the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific to consider a draft action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the Region.

The NCDs – principally cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes – account for 63% of deaths worldwide. In the Western Pacific, home to more than one fourth of the world's population, they account for 80% of deaths.

The action plan is intended to guide efforts by the Region's 37 countries and areas to prevent and control the epidemic of NCDs. The regional plan would align with a global one also being developed under the auspices of WHO.

Contrary to popular belief, NCDs are not just associated with old age. They also kill and disable people during their most productive years. In most of the Western Pacific's low- and middle-income countries, half of deaths from NCDs happen prematurely – that is, before age 70.

The political momentum for a solution is growing. Eighteen months ago, the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs. It was only the second time that the body had met on a health issue, the other being about AIDS. Attended by many heads of government, the meeting positioned the fight against NCDs as a global priority. The WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific later called on WHO to develop a regional action plan by 2013.

Last year, the World Health Assembly adopted a global target of a 25% reduction in premature deaths from NCDs by 2025.

The draft regional action plan is being developed to provide guidance on the reduction of premature deaths from NCDs using evidence-based interventions. The plan highlights the importance of strengthening health systems for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment and palliation of NCDs. It also incorporates the global monitoring framework and regional indicators and targets.

NCDs can be prevented and controlled by reducing four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and the harmful use of alcohol. Health ministries and the health sector alone cannot tackle the problem. It requires a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach.

WHO has developed a cost-effective package of interventions for the care of people with NCDs in low-resource settings.

For more information, please contact:

Ms Marilu Lingad
Telephone: +63 (02) 528 9993

Mr Ruel Serrano
Telephone: +63 (02) 528 8001