Most non-communicable disease (NCD) related deaths are preventable, reveals a recent WHO 2014 Global Status Report. Of the 38 million lives lost to NCDs in 2012, 42% were premature and avoidable. Such numbers certainly should prompt world policy makers to adopt measures that tackle this issue in a much more forceful and concerted way than has been done until now.
The report presents a powerful message, stating that NCDs are driven by the effects of globalisation on marketing and trade, rapid urbanisation and population ageing – factors over which individuals and the conventional health sector have limited control. While individual behaviour change is important, tackling NCDs definitively requires “leadership at the highest levels of government, policy development that involves all government departments, and progress towards universal health coverage“.
NCD health economics speak for themselves: Between 2011 and 2025, the estimated loss in income as a result of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries is expected to reach US$ 7 trillion. This in comparison to the estimated annual budget of US$ 11.2 billion needed to implement interventions to successfully reduce the NCD burden.
Comprehensive legislation and the enforcement of national laws and regulations can help prevent public health policies for NCD prevention and control being interfered with by vested interests.
The WHO report indicates a set of 9 very cost-effective global targets that need to be urgently achieved by 2025.
Global target 1: A 25% relative reduction in overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases
Global target 2: At least 10% relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol as appropriate, within the national context
Global target 3: A 10% relative reduction in the prevalence of insufficient physical activity
Global target 4: A 30% relative reduction in the mean population intake of salt /sodium
Global target 5: A 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years
Global target 6: A 25% relative reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure, or contain the prevalence of raised blood pressure, according to national circumstances
Global target 7: Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity
Global target 8: At least 50% of eligible people receive drug therapy and
counselling (including glycaemic control) to prevent heart attacks and strokes
Global target 9: An 80% availability of affordable basic technologies
and essential medicines, including generics, required to treat major
non-communicable diseases in both public and private facilities.
EPHA has been advocating for the implementation of NCD-reducing policies for a long time. As regards diet and nutrition related non-communicable diseases, EPHA has already underlined the need for promoting affordable and accessible healthy diets in Europe as a key weapon to increase public health.
The indication of salt intake as one of the 9 global targets by the WHO report is therefore welcomed by EPHA. However, further work on other nutrients must be done – added sugars, fats (saturated and trans). EPHA has already called for more coherent and concerted efforts to promote and support the consumption of whole or minimally processed foods such as fruit and vegetables, which constitute healthy and sustainable diets.
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