The Non-Communicable Disease Alliance has commended the report of a WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) ahead of crucial negotiations in preparation for the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs taking place in New York this coming September.
The report “Time to Deliver” was presented to WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus, calling on heads of governments to take responsibility for the NCD agenda, rather to designating to health ministers alone.
“It is indeed time to deliver – 2018 is a do or die moment for NCDs and we need to put a brake on countries sleep walking into a sick future,” said Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance and a member of the High-Level Commission.
The reports notes progress against chronic diseases has been too slow for the world to meet the sutainable development target on NCDS—to reduce deaths from NCDs by a third by 2030.
“For the first time in history, NCDs, many of which are preventable, are killing more people than infectious diseases and producing misery for millions more. We have had enough of political inaction on NCDs, there has been too little progress and we´re off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Dain.
A highlight of the report is the Commission´s call for ownership of national NCD responses from the very top – Prime Ministers and Presidents, vital, given the causes and solutions for NCDs extend well beyond the health sector. The Commission itself includes in its membership a number of important political leaders, the current Presidents of Uruguay, Sri Lanka and Finland as well as a former President of Chile.
“But we can count on two hands the number of other Presidents and Prime Ministers who have been courageous and visionary when it comes their citizens’ health,” said Dain.
“Something has got to give if we are to avoid unnecessary suffering.”
It is a landmark assessment of progress against often neglected diseases like obesity in addition to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and mental disorders.
But the NCD Alliance believes the report did not sufficiently resolve three important issues:
• The unhealthy commodity industries (big tobacco, alcohol and food) have a well-documented history of infiltrating public health organisations, subverting science, and interfering with and undermining public policy that would promote health. One of the major reasons for slow progress against NCDs is that some industries profit from the increased sales of products that harm people and therefore lose money if public health succeeds in protecting people’s health.
• Alcohol remains marginalised in the report and as a public health threat worldwide. Taxation and the regulation of marketing and sales are critically important interventions that need to be urgently scaled up, but have been blocked by industry in many countries.
• Sugar, added sugars, and, in particular, sugar-sweetened beverages, are leading drivers of the obesity epidemic. Promising evidence suggests that taxes on SSBs substantially reduce consumption, and yet fiscal policies on sugar sweetened beverages are entirely omitted from the recommendations – a limitation which is noted in the Report’s opening message from the co-chairs. A more comprehensive approach to taxation – including sugar, alcohol and tobacco (referred to as STAX) – provide a win-win policy measure to governments for public health, domestic resource mobilisation and equity.
“This report informs us of the golden opportunity the 2018 UN HLM presents,” said Dain. “The clock is ticking. 15 million people will have died prematurely this past year alone. It’s time to say Enough!