Opening Remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Regional Meeting on National Multisectoral Action Plans for NCD Prevention and Control

11 June 2012


I am pleased to welcome you to the Regional Meeting on National Multisectoral Action Plans for NCD Prevention and Control.

I am very grateful to the Honourable Minister of Health, Government of Malaysia for funding and co-hosting this meeting.

Staff of the Ministry of Health has worked very hard to make this happen.

This meeting has been organized with great expectations by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.

Years of advocacy have led to a truly global commitment for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and their causes.

The Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in September 2011 was a milestone in the fight against NCDs.

A month later, the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific adopted a resolution urging Member States to fulfil the commitments in the political declaration.

Now is the time to turn political commitment into action.

As you all know, NCD prevention and control is a complex issue.

Most of us have developed behavioural patterns from a young age that are difficult to change, even if we wanted to.

And the environments where we live, study, play and work have a huge influence on our behaviour. But these environments are often not under the health sector.

They are under different government ministries — such as urban planning, education, commerce or agriculture, to name a few. And they are influenced by many factors — from economic situation to culture.

This is precisely why we need a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to tackle NCDs.

We must address all the determinants of health together for integrated prevention and control of NCDs.

To succeed, the health sector must work in concert — hand-in-hand — with other relevant sectors and stakeholders.

WHO has been assigned a lead role in the implementation of the political declaration. And we do not take that task lightly.

The declaration calls on all countries to have national multisectoral plans and policies to fight NCDs in place by 2013.

Many Member States in the Region already have national NCD plans. But many developed plans without multisectoral participation. Many do not have a dedicated budget or clear targets and indicators to measure outcomes.

These are some of the gaps we need to address in this meeting.

WHO has developed the most cost-effective and evidence based interventions — or best buys — to fight NCDs.

They include tobacco control, reducing alcohol-related harm, salt and fat reduction and physical activity promotion, to name a few. We have strong examples of multisectoral best-buys in action in our Region.

In the South, Australia's landmark plain packaging law for cigarettes came about as a result of coordinated actions among health, legal and business sectors and the national parliament.

In the North, the President of Mongolia toasted the New Year in 2012 with a glass of milk — and showed his support for alcohol control measures by banning alcohol at government functions.

Across the Pacific, leaders from health, agriculture, trade, fisheries and other sectors came together at the Pacific Food Summit to improve food security.

They set up a network to monitor production, supply and trade to ensure healthier foods for Pacific island countries and areas.

And in cities around the Region, WHO works with partners and stakeholders to bring together all concerned sectors to make Healthy Cities a reality.

For example, WHO is working with the United Nations Centre for Regional Development in Nagoya, Japan, on plans to add bicycle paths and pedestrian lanes to roads in cities around the Region — including Phnom Penh, Marikina, Seoul, Changwon and Nagoya.

Whether through encouraging exercise or helping people quit smoking, we must focus on fighting noncommunicable diseases — which kill four out of five people in the Region — now more than ever.

This meeting brings together representatives from health planning as well as the other sectors or government and society who are critical for putting into effect the best buys to combat NCDs. I would like to congratulate our host, Malaysia, for having already developed a National Multisectoral Strategic Plan for NCDs.

The Government's leadership has been exemplary, with a cabinet committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for coordination of efforts among different sectors.

Later, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia will share their insights with us, as will other countries in the Region.

The 65th World Health Assembly held two weeks back, decided to adopt a target for NCD -25% relative reduction in mortality by 2025.

The World Health Assembly also called for considering targets and indicators for NCD risk factors and further development of NCD indicators for health system response as well.

We hope to you have your suggestions, comments and inputs for the development of targets and indicators in this meeting and we will report this back to the Regional Committee in September and through the RCM to the global meeting in October to finalize the targets and indicators.

Likewise, we also look forward to discussing the draft global NCD action plan. Our colleagues from WHO Geneva will present these topics.

After this meeting, WHO will collaborate closely with stakeholders to conduct country assessments, multisectoral consultations and develop roadmaps for action in specific countries.

You are here for four days to help chart the course against NCDs. It is a tall task with many lives at stake.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of your discussions and your recommendations. They will serve to guide us all in our work.

Thank you.