Governments renew commitment against NCDs at high-level summit
1 octubre 2018


Non-communicable diseases. The delegations that participated in the 3rd UN High Level Meeting on NCDs September 27th in New York issued a political declaration reaffirming the commitment of national governments to fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The declaration calls on the food industry to reduce the salt, sugar, saturated fat and trans-fatty acid content of its products, improve the nutrition labelling of foods and limit the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. The declaration will be published in the coming weeks, once its elaboration and translation process is completed. Given the renewed commitment of countries to combat NCDs, it is expected that in the coming months the Executive and Legislative Branches of Member States will push for executive policies and bills to deepen legislation on the issue.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), pointed out that the commitments made by governments are an historic opportunity to care for people’s health and promote economic growth. In this sense, policies to reduce NCDs will generate about $350 billion in profits in low- and middle-income countries by 2030. “Seventy percent of deaths worldwide are caused by diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart and respiratory diseases,” the official said. Eighty-five percent of those deaths are in developing countries.

During the event, numerous presidents and Executive branch´s representatives spoke about national experiences in the control and reduction of NCDs. For example, the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, explained that he issued a decree on food labelling and that there is currently a bill under study in Congress on the same subject. “No one is left over in the task of reducing these deaths by one-third by 2030, which is why we need the participation of civil society and the private sector,” he said. Ecuador’s Minister of Health, Verónica Espinosa, spoke about achievements in health strategies on food labelling and sugary beverages in her country.

WHO also presented its third report on NCDs profiles in countries, which assesses progress made at the national level towards the achievement of NCD control targets. According to the results, the risk of premature death from one of the four major NCDs has been reduced to 18 per cent in 2016, 5 per cent lower than in 2010. However, at this rate of progress, it is unlikely that the premature mortality rate per NCD will be reduced by one-third by 2030 and, therefore, that the target set in the Sustainable Development Goals will be met.

Next steps

The political declaration of the participants of the meeting ratifies the commitment of the UN countries to strengthen policies for the control and reduction of NCDs. In this sense, governments should promote executive measures and bills to increase legislation on the issue and fulfill the undertaken commitments.

On the other hand, the WHO High Level Commission on NCDs, the working group that published the report “Time to Act”, will continue the discussion of new ways to combat NCDs until October 2019.