20 September 2011
General Assembly
GA/11146

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

7th, 8th & 10th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)


As High-level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases Concludes, New York City’s


Mayor Says ‘We Are in Race with Time We Cannot Afford to Lose’

 


Public Health Pendulum Has Swung Too Far, Focusing Too Much on Too Few Illnesses,

Says General Assembly President, Pledging to Examine Options to Bolster Prevention


Addressing the General Assembly’s two-day summit on non-communicable diseases this afternoon as it drew to a close, Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York, implored Governments worldwide to adopt the type of public policies and strategies that had enabled his administration to reduce deadly chronic illnesses and promote healthy lifestyles among the city’s 8.4 million people. 


Thanks to a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars, parks and public beaches, a steep excise tax on cigarettes, hard-hitting media campaigns about the dangers of smoking and widely available smoking cessation programmes, the percentage of adults who smoked in New York City had fallen from 22 per cent in 2002 to 14 per cent today, while the number of teenagers who smoked had dropped from 18 per cent to 7 per cent over the same period. 


“We’ve already saved at least 1,500 lives annually,” Mr. Bloomberg said, adding that “such results can be and must be replicated worldwide.”


New York City had also taken the lead in promoting healthier eating habits, as part of its overall efforts to make reduction of non-communicable diseases a public health priority, he said.  In 2008, the city had become the first jurisdiction in the United States to require restaurants and eateries to post calorie charts of food items for sale.  Licensing for “green” street carts selling fresh fruits and vegetables had been expanded, grocers and manufacturers were encouraged to commit to reducing salt content in food, and public education campaigns had been launched about the health dangers of excessive sugar and salt intake.


As a result, life expectancy in New York City, which grew by more than 1.5 years from 2001 to 2008, was higher than in the United States overall.  “I believe all nations worldwide can achieve similar success,” Mr. Bloomberg said.  Moreover, such healthy solutions were not necessarily costly, he said, noting that New York City’s Smoke-free Air Act, restrictions on trans-fats, and the calorie postings in restaurants had not cost the city any revenue to implement.  On the contrary, excise taxes on cigarettes had raised public funds. 


When it came to public health, the world was in a race with time it could not afford to lose, he said, pointing to forecasts of the World Health Organization (WHO) that 7.5 million people would die annually of tobacco-related causes, mostly in low- and middle-income nations, where the tobacco industry had bolstered its push to get the world’s poor hooked on cigarettes before Governments could respond.  Allowing that trend to continue would be “a calamity of the first magnitude”, he said, calling on Governments at all levels to prioritize the fight against the global health epidemic and non-communicable diseases.


Mr. Bloomberg said his philanthropic organization had set up partnerships with Governments and citizens groups worldwide to implement policies to defeat the global tobacco epidemic.  He lauded other cities and nations that had implemented comprehensive tobacco control laws, pointing to the Brazilian State of Sao Paulo’s decision to mandate smoking-free public places and the Turkish Government’s move to require graphic warnings about the hazards of smoking on all cigarette packets.  


Echoing Mr. Bloomberg’s concerns, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said the public health pendulum had swung too far, focusing too much on a few diseases, while denying attention and help to those who suffered and died from less dramatic but no less fatal diseases of the body and mind.  But after two days of debate on those ills — namely, heart disease, cancers, diabetes and lung disease — he said he was optimistic that there was a carefully laid out approach that could lead the way in tackling the world’s number one risk to the global economy and advance socio-economic development in the decades ahead.


The international community must very closely monitor implementation of the commitments set forth in the Political Declaration on prevention and control on non-communicable diseases, a move which ensured that such diseases would no longer be excluded from global discussions on development, Mr. Al-Nasser said.  That Political Declaration, adopted on Monday, would guide international efforts to address comprehensively and decisively the risk factors and underlying determinants of health. 


During its sixty-seventh session, the Assembly would consider options to strengthen and facilitate multisectoral action to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, through effective partnerships, he said.  WHO would prepare recommendations for voluntary global targets by 2012, as well as develop indicators and a monitoring framework before the end of next year.  Those steps, as well as the Secretary-General’s progress report and 2014 review of implementation of the Political Declaration would allow the international community to measure real-time progress in addressing serious threats to health and development.


Also today, the co-chairs of the three round-table discussions held in conjunction with the two-day summit presented summaries of the proceedings.  (For detailed summaries, see Press Release GA/11138).


Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health of the United Kingdom, summarized the round table “the rising incidence, developmental and other challenges and the social and economic impact of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors”, in which 38 speakers participated.  During that session, speakers had noted that low- and middle-income countries were suffering from a “double burden” of infectious and non-communicable diseases, which were straining already overstretched public health services, causing health-care costs to rise, and economic development to weaken.  A large percentage of people at high risk for non-communicable diseases in those countries had not been diagnosed, while those that had lacked sufficient access to even basic health-care services. 


Stronger surveillance to map and monitor non-communicable diseases and their risk factors and determinants, as part of overall national health information systems, was vital, he said, adding that such monitoring provided the foundation for advocacy, policy development and global and national action. 


“There are already people dying unnecessarily, before their time.  All the speakers were clear — we cannot delay developing our health systems to deal with this rising tide,” he said.  That implied recruiting and training health-care personnel to assess and treat non-communicable diseases, ensuring universal access to care, as well as drawing on the experiences of global programmes to treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to strengthen capacity for research and development.  Preventing non-communicable diseases was critical, he said, pointing to the clear links between them and maternal and child health.  Poor nutrition during pregnancy not only caused stillbirths and pre-term births; it also led to higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. 


Similarly, Pál Schmitt, President of Hungary, who summarized the round-table discussion on “strengthening national capacities, as well as appropriate policies, to address prevention and control of non-communicable diseases”, said enhancing such capacities was an integral part of poverty reduction.  In the corporate sectors, businesses could make an important contribution through responsible marketing to prevent promotion of unhealthy diets and other harmful behaviours and products.


The key message of that roundtable, which heard from 43 speakers, was the urgency of implementing affordable best practices called “best buys” and other effective measures to reduce risk factors, he said.  Speakers had also pointed to the need to train greater numbers of health-care personnel to ensure national capacity and universal access to health services for all while reducing “brain drain” problems in some regions, as well as ensuring that cancer, mental disorders and other ailments were tackled within a strengthened primary health care system.


The lack of sustainable health financing was a major impediment to progress, he lamented, noting speakers’ assertions that many countries no had viable funding to address non-communicable diseases.  But he warned that steps must be taken to prevent the loss of valuable and “unrepeatable” human life.


Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, who summarized the round-table discussion on “fostering international cooperation as well as coordination, to address non-communicable diseases”, which heard from 42 speakers, agreed.  During that round table, speakers had stressed the need to integrate prevention and control strategies into official development assistance (ODA) programmes and scale up research in order to address the rising tide of non-communicable diseases.  They had emphasized the importance of developing time-bound targets to hold the world to account, to monitor progress and to ensure continued attention and investment in prevention and treatment.


Moreover, they had pointed to the need to strengthen national surveillance, particularly in the light of the lack of critical national data required to guide policy development; engage in constructive dialogue to promote healthy consumption patterns; replace negative advertising with positive images on healthy lifestyles; develop international food standards and harmonize food regulations; as well as provide access to affordable medicines and technologies to combat non-communicable diseases. 


The President of Ukraine also spoke today.


Also addressing the Assembly were Health Ministers and other senior Government officials of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Grenada, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Chad, Aruba (on behalf of the Netherlands), Argentina (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Republic of Korea, Colombia, Spain, Thailand, Poland, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ecuador, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Tuvalu.


In addition, the representatives of Monaco, San Marino, Mauritania, Greece, El Salvador, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Myanmar, and Cambodia.


Also speaking were representatives of the League of Arab States, Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Commonwealth Secretariat, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to continue its high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, which was expected to conclude this afternoon.  For more information, please see Press Release GA/11138from 19 September.


Statements


VICTOR MAKWENGE KAPUT, Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that, while its non-communicable diseases represented a major public health problem, the main risk factors for non-communicable diseases were well-known, including tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.  Among other non-communicable diseases seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent years, there was a notable rise in the rates of diabetes.  In response, the Government had set up a specific division to combat non-communicable diseases that included a national programme to address diabetes.


He further stressed that in certain major cities, civic society organizations were working together to combat diabetes and sickle cell disease, among other chronic illnesses.  A Centre of Research and Care had been established within the Public Health Ministry for sickle cell disease.  By diminishing activity and exacerbating poverty, non-communicable diseases compromised the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  In the face of limited resources to control those diseases, the Democratic Republic of the Congo called for a special fund to assist in that fight.


SOUMANA SANDA, Minister of Health of Niger, said that, in his country, non-communicable diseases were “gaining ground”.  The Government was making efforts to monitor them, in particular through screenings; however, currently over 20 per cent of the population was affected by cardiovascular disease and 4 per cent by obesity.  On 16 June 2011, Niger had passed a national instrument to counter non-communicable diseases.  It had also ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, established a cancer treatment centre, arranged for the free treatment of cancer in women, adopted a law on the creation of a public institute to fight cancer, and had created an overall national action plan to combat non-communicable diseases.


The plan, however, required synergies and effective action, as well as resources, he said.  It required qualified personnel, the proper equipment, awareness raising, and the adoption of healthier lifestyles, with an eye towards prevention.  Efforts had been made to mobilize many sectors of the Government, but Niger required additional support in its efforts from the international community.


ANN PETERS, Minister of Health of Grenada, said her country, like many others in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recognized the growing threat posed by non-communicable diseases.  In the face of that rising challenge, the Government had concluded that prevention was the most sustainable strategy in combating those diseases.  It had, therefore, approved a framework for revitalizing its health-care system.  Among other things, it had established a national chronic disease group to advise on strategies aimed at curbing the rise of non-communicable diseases.  Grenada had also instigated a healthy lifestyle programme for chronic care patients and was implementing a programme to foster healthy communities, which promoted cardiovascular health, among other things.


Noting that Grenada had already made some progress in its efforts to combat non-communicable diseases, she stressed that the real challenge lay in transforming its health sector from a curative to a preventive system.  She said global efforts were also needed to encourage the food industry to join the fight against non-communicable diseases.  For its part, Grenada was committed to ensuring universal access to care and treatment to prevent non-communicable diseases.


ALI YACOUB MAHAMOUD, Minister of Health of Djibouti, said that poor nutrition, often thought of as under-nutrition, led to health problems.  However, another kind of poor nutrition led people to become overweight, which led to chronic illnesses later in life.  Non-communicable diseases were becoming a problem in Djibouti, as elsewhere.  The country was working to build a modern health-care system, increasing its budget allocation for health from 4 per cent to more than 15 per cent of the total budget in recent years.  It was also making developmental strides in that area, and was working with the education and employment sectors to promote healthier lifestyles.


More synergies and greater resources were nonetheless needed to combat the growing epidemic, which was now just as harmful in Djibouti as communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  Djibouti was well aware of the lifestyle risk factors, he said.  Moving forward, the Assembly should take those risks — as well as their developmental impacts — into consideration.  Partnerships should be created on the global level to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, whose impact on the social and economic development in developing countries could be stemmed, if strong commitments were made for common action.  Investments, in that respect, should take into account the limited resources of developing counties in providing treatment to their populations, even as prevention efforts were being taken.


ANTOINE GAMBI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic, noting that public health was a pillar of the Millennium Development Goals, underscored the rising threat of non-communicable diseases in his country and the impact it could have on its development.  Indeed, chronic non-communicable diseases were important obstacles standing in the way of development, he said, highlighting how they reduced productivity and economic growth.  Stressing that prevention was better than a cure, he affirmed that preventing non-communicable diseases was central in the fight against poverty.


Consequently, the Government of the Central African Republic had incorporated strategies to reduce non-communicable diseases in its national development plans, he said.  The objectives of those efforts included, among other things, reducing the levels of death and early incapacity and diminishing risk factors, such as alcohol consumption and obesity.  To achieve those goals, the State had adopted a number of strategies to bolster national institutions, and was strengthening partnerships with World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health groups, including the International Diabetes Federation.  It also sought to improve screening and to promote healthier lifestyles, in general.  However, as a fragile country in the post-conflict phase, Central African Republic did not have sufficient resources to do all that was needed and it appealed for greater international support and resource mobilization to guarantee that the many lives threatened by these diseases were saved.


JAMIE MAXTONE-GRAHAM, Minister for Health and HIV/AIDS of Papua New Guinea, said that he had experienced on a very personal level the crisis of non-communicable diseases.  The very development that had helped his country grow since independence was now causing an epidemic, as urbanization, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy, risky behaviours became the norm.  “Our economy is expanding rapidly, at the same time as it is struggling with the double burden of non-communicable diseases,” he said, adding that, in the traditional lifestyle of Papua New Guinea, non-communicable diseases were “unheard of”.  However, as foodstuffs and other materials were now imported with greater frequency, non-communicable diseases had become a crisis for the entire Pacific region.


In that light, he aligned his statement with those made throughout the session by other Pacific island States.  Papua New Guinea had included non-communicable diseases in its national plans for 2011-2020, its 30-Year Strategic Plan and other long-term strategies.  It was calling for all Papua New Guineans to take ownership of their own health, and on civil servants to become champions for health.  However, the struggle was difficult.  Trade policies must protect the health of the country’s population, he stressed, with taxes on the importation of unhealthy food, alcohol, and so forth, and subsidies for healthy foods.  “Poor nutrition will cripple any nation.  Good nutrition will save it,” he said, adding that that if Member States did not make radical changes in the monitoring and trade of food, “many States will fall” due to a chronically diseased population.  He challenged all States not to accept any “diluted response” or “diplomatic niceties” on this important issue.  Bold actions were needed, he concluded, imploring States to “make our actions count today.”


SALOMÓN CERTORIVSKI WOLDENBERG, Minister of Health of Mexico, noted that chronic non-communicable diseases did not distinguish between borders, social sectors and age groups, making it an enormous challenge to public health.  In Mexico, 14 of every 100 adults had diabetes.  Obesity rates, as well as the incidence of cardiovascular disease, were rising.  Non-communicable diseases not only reduced life expectancy, but, by cutting short the number of working years among the general population, reduced productivity.  In that context, those diseases must be combated, he said, stressing that that fight required multi-sectoral, across-the-board solutions that involved both the public and private sectors.  Health services must also be strengthened, particularly in the area of prevention.  Internationally, significant progress had been seen in the fight against other great diseases.  But, in order to improve the fight against non-communicable diseases today, coordination must be boosted to be able to build capacity and strengthen national health systems.


He stressed that his Government was moved by the conviction that, if the international community was successful in the fight against non-communicable diseases, it would greatly improve the lives of future generations.  That was why it was so active in so many international health organizations, such as WHO.  Mexico was also convinced of the positive effects of multilateralism and had attempted to increase links between countries and international organizations to fight non-communicable diseases.  To that end, it had recently held a meeting on non-communicable diseases and obesity.  He noted that the results of that conference had prompted greater interest in those issues among the Mexican public.  Domestically, the Government had worked to improve its national health system and was close to achieving universal health coverage, he said, while also calling for a greater prevention effort at home and internationally.


VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, President of Ukraine, said that non-communicable diseases were a global issue affecting people in all countries regardless of their social and economic status.  In Ukraine, cardiovascular disease, endocrine system disease and cancer were the main causes of premature death.  Those problems were not merely medical, but stemmed from lifestyles and a country’s social and economic situation, and could be prevented.


He said a large scale reform programme started in Ukraine aimed to create living conditions that would promote a confident outlook on the future and encourage people to care for their health.  In the coming year, it would be a priority to modernize the primary health-care system, which in many regions would require a revitalization of rural health care.  Other measures include fighting tobacco and smoking, working to decrease traffic accidents through improved roads and increased penalties for traffic violations, and the launch of a national project to open specialized prenatal facilities in areas with insufficient maternity care.


As a Euro-2012 football championship host country, Ukraine was also committed to promoting sports as one of the key elements of a healthy lifestyle.  Additionally, the new European policy for health, Health 2020, envisaged prevention-oriented health care.  Ukraine was convinced that good nutrition was an important factor in preventing disease and maintaining health, and would work to stimulate production of ecologically clean food.


ABDULKARIM YEHIA RASE, Minister for Public Health and Sanitation of Yemen, said that the prevention and combating of non-communicable diseases should become a priority the world over.  That would represent a “qualitative shift” in development goals, he added.  His country suffered from both communicable and non-communicable diseases alike.  In the case of the latter, symptoms began slowly and patients would live with them their entire lives, he recalled; that made them all the more dangerous in low-income countries.  Today, the four main non-communicable diseases were also leading killers in Yemen, he said.


A lack of data, as well as of the capacity to conduct research or to intervene to fight non-communicable diseases, were compounding the main problems related to non-communicable diseases in developing countries, he said.  He underscored the importance of scientific research that should inform “sovereign opinions” on health policy.  In that light, a close relationship between public health and academic institutions, as well as support from development partners, was needed, in order to arrive at the “right interventions” for any particular country.  He supported the establishment of a global fund to combat non-communicable diseases in developing countries, just as there had been to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic around the world.


ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA, Minister for Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, affirmed the need for commitment and coordination at the highest possible level in the fight against non-communicable diseases, which comprised the world’s top killers.  She stressed that non-communicable diseases were on the rise in Sierra Leone and her Government believed that capacity was the most important aspect of the Political Declaration adopted by the General Assembly yesterday.  Indeed, determining how capacity could be boosted was key to that text’s implementation.  In Sierra Leone, the health sector lacked the infrastructure, equipment, essential drugs, and health professionals capable of treating non-communicable diseases.


Those formidable challenges notwithstanding, the Government was taking concrete steps to spare its citizens from the threat of non-communicable diseases, she said.  It had established a Government directorate devoted to those ailments, which had immediately conducted a survey of the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.  Following the survey’s “shocking” results, the Government had acted to develop policies and strategic plans to address non-communicable diseases.  It had also acceded to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.  In addition, some no-smoking zones had been set up throughout the country and special care and treatment facilities had been built, with help from China.  The Cuban Government had, with support from South Africa, deployed health professionals to staff local clinics in Sierra Leone.  The State was also working to include all parts of its Government to effectively respond to the challenge of non-communicable diseases.  However, it also sincerely hoped that the current high-level meeting would result in a global commitment to shore up national efforts around the world.


TOUPTA BOGUENA, Minister of Public Health of Chad, said that the current situation of non-communicable diseases in her country had yet to be properly defined.  Data showed that each year there were cases of hypertension and diabetes in the country’s hospitals.  Meanwhile, at the local level, there was a worrying increase in “family members” who suffered from non-communicable diseases.  Chad had established a Framework for the Prevention and Control of Diseases, which was a multi-sectoral committee that had drawn up a programme of steps to follow to counter non-communicable diseases.


Despite the lack of clear data, the risk factor behaviours in Chad were well-documented.  Many people did not have access to healthy food, such as vegetables, and many did no physical activity.  Those who drank alcohol did so in worrying amounts.  The Government had set, among its priorities, the combating of non-communicable diseases, which hindered development.  However, she said, the lack of a national network of diagnostic laboratories and trained health personnel presented particular bottlenecks.  She called on the international community to support Chad’s efforts in health “more than usual”.  “Long live health for all the peoples of the world,” she concluded.


RICHARD VISSER, Minister of Health and Sport of Aruba, speaking on behalf of the Netherlands, acknowledged that there had been an overall increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases throughout the Kingdom, particularly of people with diabetes and one or a combination of chronic conditions.  With regard to the children of the Caribbean islands, a specific focus had been given to childhood obesity due to its high prevalence in the region.  At the international level, he said, while it was important to monitor the prevalence of diseases and practical and accessible approaches, he was against globally decided targets, given the differences of prevalence in countries and in the increases in non-communicable diseases.


He was aware that the burden of diseases in developing countries was growing; and to that end, believed in the involvement of government approach.  However, distinctions needed to be made between policy aspects that fell within the responsibility of ministries of health themselves, such as the sustainability of health-care systems and health prevention programmes, and the responsibilities of other ministries that could also impact health, he stressed.  With regard to assistance to low- and middle-income countries, he said the first priority was to create health-care systems that met the challenges of non-communicable diseases both in preventive actions and in health-care treatment.  With that in mind, financing through the strengthening of existing health-care systems had to be implemented in the framework of current mechanisms without the need for new partnerships.  Returning to the subject of obesity, he drew attention to the Aruba Call for Action on Obesity, which was adopted in June at a Pan-American Conference on the issue.  It gave special attention to childhood obesity and committed Governments to share strategies and support effective public policies.


EDUARDO BUSTOS VILLAR, Secretary of Health and Health Relations of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Organization must play a vital role bringing non-communicable diseases to the global development agenda.  Non-Communicable diseases represented “a real global epidemic and a leading threat to sustainable development and to the right to achieve the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health,” he said.  Though largely preventable, they deepened social inequities, hindered human development and remained a tough obstacle in the fight against poverty and hunger.  Poor living conditions contributed to the rising incidence of those diseases and social inequities, inequitable access to medicines and diagnostic tools should be addressed.  Generic drugs had played a key role ensuring access to medicines in the developing world, he said.  Each country had the right to use the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) flexibilities, as confirmed by the Doha Declaration, and the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health needed to be implemented.  They were important tools for strengthening public health in developing countries.


Non-Communicable diseases were not constrained by national boundaries, he said.  Governments held the primary responsibility to respond to the global epidemic, but there was an urgent need for joint efforts from all sectors of society, as well as the international community.  In that regard, the Group of 77 and China urged all Member States to strengthen international cooperation, including the transfer of technology.  Despite their growing burden, non-communicable diseases accounted for less than 1 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) for health; he called for the fulfilment of all overseas development commitments, including the pledge by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) for assistance by 2015.  “Non-communicable diseases should receive the attention they deserve in the development agenda,” he said, urging relevant international organizations and partners to increase aid that would improve non-communicable diseases prevention and control.


The Political Declaration, the first comprehensive document with commitments from global leaders to address non-communicable diseases, served as a useful platform for the consideration of developmental and other impacts of non-communicable diseases.  He looked forward to engaging partners and stakeholders in the follow-up process to strengthen the global response to this epidemic.


TURKI BIN MOHAMED BIN SAUD AL KABEER, Under-Secretary for Multi-Relations Affairs of Saudi Arabia, said that the current meeting presented a good opportunity to review efforts taken so far to combat non-communicable diseases.  Saudi Arabia supported all such efforts, and urged countries to continue to undertake them, both at the national and international level.  For its part, Saudi Arabia had created a centre for non-communicable diseases and had instituted a number of programmes for the prevention the most common non-communicable diseases.  Those included programmes on diabetes prevention, good nutrition and physical activities, the early examination of newly born children, the detection of risk-factor behaviours and osteoporosis screening.


It had established national committees for infectious diseases and had conducted several national studies to investigate risk factors, in conjunction with WHO.  Saudi Arabia had also trained personnel involved in combating non-communicable diseases, and had launched national campaigns to raise awareness among the population.  It had created a computerized system to monitor and record cases of non-communicable diseases for those who are about to enter marriage, he said.  Further, the country had been represented at several regional and international levels in the area of non-communicable diseases, he said.


KARIN JOHANSSON, State Secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, said that it had taken great patience and perseverance to move from initiative to decision, from publication of facts through the formulation of relevant strategies to action plans.  The current meeting was a “landmark event” in the area of non-communicable diseases, and underscored the importance of common efforts.  Sweden expected that concrete commitments would be made at the meeting, not the least at the national level.  Efforts needed to focus on health promotion and disease prevention, she said, adding that therein lay a great potential for global health gain, and therefore, for reduced health inequalities between and within countries.


It was up to each nation to take into account its own political and social context, she continued, when deciding upon the optimal mix of existing evidence and good practices for improving the health of its citizens.  But, the most effective “best buy” measures were readily available, and national responsibility for their implementation must be taken.  Meanwhile, WHO should continue to take the leading role in the work to combat non-communicable diseases.  The Swedish Government had recently developed strategies for working with major United Nations organizations, WHO among them.  One of the country’s priorities was to contribute to and strengthen the organization’s work with respect to health promotion and non-communicable diseases.  Governments must commit themselves to taking leadership and fulfilling commitments already made in the fight against those diseases.  Sweden was also committed to assisting Member States in those struggles.


JUN BYUNG YOOL, Deputy Minister for Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea, said this meeting would be critically important in the fight against non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancers, respiratory ailments and diabetes.  Noting that his Government had not only participated, but hosted one of the WHO-sponsored regional high-level meetings held in the run-up to today’s event, he said the resulting Seoul Declaration on Non-communicable Disease Prevention and Control in the Western Pacific Region emphasized the dimensions of the fight, including the need to strengthen national health systems.  Similarly, the Moscow Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases, which resulted from April’s Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Diseases Control, voiced concerns that the fight against non-communicable diseases involved a complex array of challenges.


He further stressed that a focus on prevention would reduce the number of cases and impact from non-communicable diseases, emphasizing that his Government was actively working to reduce risk factors, such as smoking.  Indeed, a recent increase in the cost of tobacco products had resulted in an 18 per cent drop in smoking rates.  The Government was also working to provide health management services for consumers who could not afford them.  Further, it was cooperating in international efforts to curb non-communicable diseases, including by hosting the regional WHO conference.  It was the belief of the Republic of Korea that the United Nations must strongly lead the world in the effort to combat non-communicable diseases.


BEATRÍZ LONDOÑO-SOTO, Deputy Minister for Health and Welfare of Colombia, said the basic principle of teamwork must be re-evaluated to improve national health-care systems.  Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was committed to developing local, national and regional capacity to promote healthy living.  To that end, he was working with a wide array of actors from the public and private sectors.  Non-communicable diseases accounted for 76 per cent of overall disease levels.  Against that backdrop, the Government sought to promote healthy lifestyles from infancy.  It was also working to improve access to health services for those already suffering from non-communicable diseases.  Among other things, Colombia had taken a decisive step forward by implementing no-smoking laws and prohibiting the advertising or sponsoring of smoking to young people.  Nonetheless, the State was well aware that preventive action needed to be increased.  Obesity remained a problem and further emphasis on physical activity was critical.


Stressing that non-communicable diseases went beyond health, she pointed out that while clinical services could be improved, such advances would amount to little if obesity was not addressed.  To that end, regulations to gradually reduce sodium levels in processed foods over five years would become effective in 2012.  She also noted that progress had been made in early detection — which led to improvements in treatment — in combating some cancers, particularly uterine cancer.  National pharmacological policy was also working to improve access to medications at low cost.  Colombia had multiplied the resources it dedicated to innovation, research and technology and now had five priority areas dealing with non-communicable diseases, she added.


ROBERTO SABRINO, Vice Minister for Health of Spain, aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the promotion of healthy lifestyles, such as physical activity, healthy diet, smoking cessation or the fight against harmful alcohol use, was a public health priority for the Spanish Government, as it should be worldwide.  Spain had been working intensively on all four fronts and had made a considerable effort to implement effective measures to prevent non-communicable diseases.  Its Tobacco Prevention Act, which prohibited tobacco advertising and sponsorship, came into force in 2005.  A new Act, amending the earlier one, had banned without exception smoking in enclosed public spaces and widened the smoking ban to include specific outdoor areas such as playgrounds and hospitals.  Also, in 2005, the national strategy to combat obesity that emphasized physical activity and nutrition had come into effect.


The Spanish Government maintained that all public policies should consider population health as a cross-cutting issue, he said.  The gender perspective should also be taken into account in all policies, particularly those related to health.  The State had formulated and operationalized strategies on cancer, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, stroke and mental health.  It was also working on a national healthy system strategy on health and gender to further combat gender inequality.  The Government was convinced that health systems were one of the most important factors of social cohesion across the international community.  Thus, there was an urgent need to adopt measures to promote the development of national health systems in various countries.  Such systems must provide equal access, while also being sustainable.  Moreover, it contended that the health sector’s role should not be analysed as an “engine that generates spending,” but as a catalyst to economic development.


TORPHONG CHAIYASAN, Deputy Minister of Health of Thailand, said that, in 1973 a group of Thai researches concluded that non-communicable diseases would one day be the country’s most serious problem.  Indeed, today, low- and middle-income countries bore a large percentage of the non-communicable disease burden, he said, while lacking almost every resource needed to combat them.  The report of WHO clearly recognized “best buy” interventions, including tax and price measures to control the consumption of tobacco.  Thailand had benefited since 2001 from a Thai national health foundation, funded by a tax on tobacco and alcohol.  It requested all Member States to effectively implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as soon as possible.


Many large corporations contributed to the non-communicable disease problem, he said, and continued to try to weaken public health policy.  While partnerships with the private sector were valuable and had helped the global community in many ways, partnerships with those companies that represented a “conflict of interest” with public health goals should not be pursued.  In order to save lives, he called on countries to use flexibility in their implementation of trade laws, in line with the TRIPS agreement and the Doha Declaration.


ADAM FRONCZAK, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Health of Poland, aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said there was still a lot to do in the fight against non-communicable diseases.  As current President of the Council of the European Union, Poland had made health — an issue that concerned everyone — a priority.  To reduce health inequality, Poland was concentrating on the role of promotion, prophylaxis, education and prevention to shape attitudes from the early stages of life.  It was also focusing on diminishing health, as well as social and economic inequalities in the later stages life.


But, Europe had the highest alcohol consumption rate in the world, with twice the per capita rate of the worldwide average, while alcohol consumption was growing fastest among countries with low and middle incomes, he said.  The fast-growing disease rate pertained mainly to poor and socially excluded populations, leading to growing health inequality.  Despite substantial resources, as well as intriguing ideas and solutions in some countries, the situation in most of Europe had not improved.  Effective action should include raising health awareness, increasing the influence of preventive measures, undertaking activities that supported social integration and recognition of the rights of the disabled and socially excluded, and combating addictions.  He supported multisectoral consultations to reach a consensus on the issue of the means and tools for fighting non-communicable diseases and their inclusion as an integral part of global development


VERONIKA SKVORTSOVA, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation, said her country was implementing a nation-wide anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol abuse programme to promote healthy lifestyles.  Thanks to recent such endeavours, the Russian Federation had managed to increase the life expectancy of its citizens by over four years, and reduce mortality by over 9 per cent.  The Moscow conference in many ways played a key role in the preparations for the high-level meeting.  Promoting a healthy way of life, controlling risks and creating a beneficial environment for health was the best way to ease the non-communicable diseases burden globally.  However, that could only be achieved if all areas of Government pulled together, including members of the public.


The Russian Federation was stepping up it contribution to global health care in line with WHO, she said.  The main goals of a project to implement the provisions of the Moscow declaration were to monitor non-communicable diseases and control risk factors; improve health care for people suffering from non-communicable diseases; foster international partnerships; and cross-sectoral cooperation.  The importance of healthy lifestyles and the need to combine efforts to fight non-communicable diseases should be the defining items of the global agenda in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Governments and organizations all over the world still had time to make a difference.


SOHIBNAZAR RAHMONOV, Deputy Minister for Health of Tajikistan, said this meeting on non-communicable diseases could effectively unite the efforts of the international community to combat the scourge of such diseases, which were reaching epidemic proportions in many countries.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajikistan was in a difficult position and that had an impact on the core health-care indicators for the whole Tajik nation.  The Tajik Government undertook decisive and ambitious steps to reform the national health-care system.  A health-care system had been developed that brought national treatment close to international standards.


Tajikistan was well aware that the mental and physical health of the nation was a national asset.  The country had adopted a national programme to diagnose and treat heart disease.  Also, an investment in craniological services had been made in the past 10 years, which significantly reduced morbidity and mortality from that disease.  Tajikistan had also adopted a law to limit the use of tobacco products, which was already paying dividends today.  In Tajikistan, as in any developing country, there were problems of non-communicable diseases whose severity were increasing.  Tajikistan needed to seek out additional resources, as well as what could be most effectively used for critical areas.


FATIMA FRANCO, Deputy Minister for Health of Ecuador, said that in Ecuador the concept of well-being guided all actions, as it represented a State of good living.  The well-being of human beings should not play second fiddle to economic interest.  Universal access to medicine and the agreement on property rights of the TRIPs agreement were key, and barriers that limited access to medicines should be reduced.  It was necessary to encourage support of international cooperation for the mobilization of resources, as such support would encourage and complement actions and strategies established in countries to improve the quality of living of their citizens.  There was a conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health.  Ecuador had established a law for the regulation and control of tobacco, since combating smoking was one of the tools needed to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases.


MUNAWAR SAEED BHATTI, Additional Foreign Secretary, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said non-communicable diseases were among the top 10 causes of mortality in Pakistan and were responsible for 25 per cent of all deaths.  The cost of diabetes alone was between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).  Diabetes-related costs could eat up to 15 to 25 per cent of disposable household income, forcing families to cut expenditures for other basic needs.  High-level political commitment was essential to combat non-communicable diseases.  To address such challenges, Pakistan’s Government was involving communities and health-care providers in efforts to create awareness of, and prevent non-communicable diseases.


It was also mapping existing health facilities and assessing their capacity to treat such diseases; establishing uniform standards for the public and private sector towards that end; incorporating prevention and control into poverty-reduction strategies; as well as promoting research into such diseases and strengthening human resource capacity to deal with them.  Partnerships with the international community could play an important role in preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases, especially by helping developing countries research and develop technology to address them.  Leading pharmaceutical companies should fulfil their corporate social responsibility by providing developing countries with medicines to prevent and control non-communicable diseases at affordable prices.


ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said Monaco was spending €300 per year, per inhabitant on development, with half of that money channelled into the social and public health sector.  It enabled the Government to provide training for health-care personnel; programmes to combat malnutrition; programmes to treat children suffering from leukaemia; and strategies to build rehabilitation centres and health-care infrastructure.  To treat non-communicable diseases, the Government was working with non-governmental organizations and international organizations, particularly WHO.  The Government had formed several hospital partnerships in order to improve staff training.  Since opening a hospital to treat children’s pathologies in 2008, it had provided treatment for 139 children with heart disease and orthopaedic conditions.


Through a partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Monaco had developed action programmes to improve the lives of cancer patients, she said.  Improving global health was an essential aspect of the Millennium Development Goals.  Efforts to control non-communicable diseases must be done within a multilateral framework.  It was essential to make the most of the experience gained in combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and applying those lessons towards the fight against non-communicable diseases.


RUBIN DARLO MOLINA ( Venezuela) said that more than 60 per cent of deaths all over the world were caused by non-communicable diseases.  There was a link between health and poverty, and the international community must urgently refocus political action, and make it more humanist in nature.  Governments must consider their social responsibility before the interests and profits of corporations and must reorient health-care goals.


The human right to health in Venezuela was part of the constitution and was free, universal, equal, and part of social integration, he continued.  The promotion, respect and access of that right was an inalienable commitment of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela.  Various policies had lead to significant improvements in the health-care sector, including free distribution of pain killers, improved access to chemotherapy, and the strengthening of cancer centres in the country where therapies were either free or very low cost.  Venezuela had also put anti-smoking measures into force recently, developed projects to combat diseases caused by environmental factors, and constructed 22 new hospitals.  Those included the construction of a children’s heart hospital, so that 80 per cent of children born with heart problems were now treated without charge.  Ten years ago, only 2 per cent of children born with heart problems had free health care.  He emphasized the importance of the TRIPs agreement to help reach universal access.


DANIELE BODINI ( San Marino) said non-communicable diseases not only created a social and psychological drama, but also an unaffordable financial burden.  The estimated cumulative output loss to the global economy due to those ailments by 2030 was between $30 trillion and $47 trillion, while increasing health-care costs seriously threatened the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Life expectancy in San Marino was well above 80 years, among the highest in the world, which was why the Government believed that early prevention of, and specific campaigns against, the use of cigarettes and alcohol limited the spread of non-communicable diseases.  More broadly, she urged the creation of efficient health-care systems and underlined the importance of international cooperation for small countries.


OULD HADRAMI ( Mauritania) said almost 9 million people had died in 2008 due to non-communicable diseases, mainly in low- and middle-income countries.  The lack of treatment capacity had exacerbated the situation.  Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, and mental health disorders were pressing problems in Mauritania.  Six per cent of the population suffered from diabetes, and cancers remained one of the main causes for medical evacuation abroad.  Mauritania was firmly committed to working with partners to combat and address those pathologies trough non-communicable disease treatment centres, anti-tobacco programmes and mental health programme.  It had set up a treatment centre for certain non-communicable diseases, a centre for chemotherapy and a national health insurance fund, among other efforts to stem the scourge.


Mauritanian officials had participated in numerous regional consultations on prevention and control, he said.  The Government was working to promote good governance toward that end.  He stressed the need to strengthen health-care systems, educate people about how to prevent non-communicable diseases, develop vaccines and medical equipment, improve infrastructure and improve basic health-care services.  Advocacy to integrate non-communicable disease prevention and control into all health-care policies was also essential.


ANASTASSIS MITSIALIS ( Greece) confirmed that his country, like most others, must deal with the impact of non-communicable diseases every day, with 40 per cent of the population suffering from chronic conditions and 55 per cent of people overweight.  The illnesses, in the 53 countries comprising WHO’s European region, accounted for 77 per cent of the total disease burden and 86 per cent of deaths.  Committed to the principles discussed in Moscow last April, Greece acknowledged the leading role of the United Nations, and of WHO, in particular, in mobilizing States through international collaboration.


He said that his country’s ambitious health reform programme prioritized prevention of main risk factors, stressing the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition — principally through discouraging foods high in sugar, fat and salt, and promoting the Mediterranean diet — through education and media campaigns, as well as regulation.  Smoking had declined, he added, supporting the introduction of an International Solidarity Levy on Tobacco.  He announced, finally, the 23 September inauguration of a new WHO office in Athens exclusively dedicated to prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in the agency’s European region.


AFELEE PITA ( Tuvalu) speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, said that, due to the profound changes in the world today, there was a critical emergent need for all countries to work together for the health of all peoples.  Everyone knew that, despite the seriousness of the impact posed by non-communicable diseases, the required resources were not commensurate with the magnitude of the problem in many countries.  As a result, 8 million people were dying prematurely every year in low- and middle-income countries.


He said his country was fully committed to participating in regional programmes and had its own focusing on the major risk factors of tobacco and alcohol abuse, physical inactivity and poor nutrition.  Tuvalu had also developed strategies to strengthen and ensure equitable access by least developed countries to stress prevention, early detection, treatment and care.  The international community must also work to reduce the vulnerability of women in that regard.  Tuvalu sought universal access to affordable and high-quality medicine to treat non-communicable diseases.  As a way forward, he urged its people to change harmful lifestyles and diets to reverse the health situation, acknowledging that that could only be achieved through the proper education and awareness programmes.  As a least developed country, he strongly urged the international community and all development partners to honour commitments stemming from the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, held in Turkey this year.


GARCIA GONZÁLEZ, Deputy Permanent Representative of El Salvador, said the burden of non-communicable diseases was worse for developing countries, and the primary role of Governments should be to provide the first line of response to the challenges those diseases posed.  International efforts should bolster national initiatives.  Indeed, for years, international cooperation had provided El Salvador with the tools needed to implement programmes concerning its own priority health issues.


He said that non-communicable diseases were the main cause of death regionally, and they were having a profound economic impact of the countries of the region.  In his and other Central American countries, chronic kidney diseases were linked with pollution and were increasingly affecting people who were poor, vulnerable and excluded.  New priorities, strategies and approaches were needed.  He called for non-traditional risk factors, such as pollution, to be considered.


LE HOAI TRUNG (Viet Nam), aligning with the statements made by the representatives of Indonesia, on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said non-communicable diseases were preventing many countries from attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  Like many others, his country faced the double health burden of persistent communicable diseases and a sharply increased incidence of non-communicable diseases.  According to World Health Organization (WHO), those diseases caused more than 350,000 deaths annually in Viet Nam, four times higher than the fatalities caused by communicable diseases there; the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and mental disorders was now a priority in Viet Nam’s national health strategy.


He said his country had achieved encouraging progress, especially in controlling some risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol Viet Nam’s draft law on tobacco control would be examined by its National Assembly in November and likely adopted in May 2012.  The country’s recently developed 2011-2015 national programme to prevent non-communicable diseases had a budget of ₫700 billion.  It sought to increase the number of diabetes detections by 36 to 50 per cent, while reducing cerebral vascular accidents by 15 to 20 per cent, and rheumatic heart valve disease by 5 to 10 per cent.  It also aimed to decrease the number of patients with cancer at later stages from 80 per cent to 40 per cent and patients with depression to 15 per cent.


EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said non-communicable diseases had a negative economic impact on developing countries.  In his country, thanks to decades of efforts, there was a universal public health system, tackling infectious diseases.  However, eight out of 10 Costa Ricans died of non-communicable diseases.  He was concerned that 23 per cent of deaths were premature as they affected people under the age of 60.  Responses should come, not only from the health sector, but should be multisectoral.  He agreed with WHO’s call for education programmes, including promoting benefits of healthy eating and physical activity from an early age.


Costa Rica, among other things, had drawn up programmes on healthy eating, but more commitment was needed from the international community to boost developing countries’ access to financial resources for, among other things, training health-care staff and improving technology.  He sought an increase in ODA along North-South and South-South cooperation initiatives.  According to WHO, deaths by non-communicable diseases were preventable.  The meeting should draw up a global strategy towards that goal.


CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein ) said that demographic trends, such as ageing, rapid unplanned urbanization, and the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles pointed to a rise in the incidence of non-communicable diseases.  For many, effective treatment costs for those diseases was too high, either placing access to health care out of reach, or effectively pushing those who did receive treatment closer to or even under the poverty line.


He said his country welcomed the Political Declaration adopted yesterday, with its strong focus on prevention and population-wide measures to promote healthy lifestyles.  Its implementation would require multi-sectoral action, integrative planning, and overall strengthening of health-care systems.  Also addressed in the declaration was indoor air pollution due to inefficient cooking stoves, which contributed to several chronic illnesses, with acute impacts.  However, simple and affordable solutions existed.  Alongside the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Liechtenstein was actively engaged in raising awareness on the issue.  In a national capacity, health-care insurance was mandatory for Liechtensteiners, including children, and the national campaign “live consciously” addressed nutrition and exercise, mental health, and health in the workplace.


MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said his country had set as a goal a cluster of strategies for control over non-communicable diseases and tobacco consumption, including a ban on the use of tobacco in public places and strict advertising regulations.  Those programmes, among others, were aimed at reducing the number of smokers and promoting healthy living.  The cost of prevention was lower than the cost of treatment.  Hence, the major part of prevention should be focused at all levels, including the media, which could promote the importance of preventing non-communicable diseases.  Cooperation should span the international community to local organizations.


He reiterated the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, even in light of the global financial crisis.  It was important to design, under the United Nations and WHO, a plan to ensure that high-quality medicines were available and that measures to combat non-communicable diseases were implemented.


U KYAW TIN (Myanmar), aligning with the statement on behalf of ASEAN, said that by putting a heavy strain on development endeavours, the challenge of non-communicable diseases had become, not only an important health problem, but a development issue that deserved policymakers’ urgent attention.  Global collective action with the active and informed participation of all stakeholders was required.  The Government of Myanmar hoped the high-level meeting would result in a global strategy that included measures to strengthen national capacity in developing countries to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.


Noting that Myanmar was included among the 23 high-burden countries that accounted for roughly 80 per cent of the total burden of chronic disease mortality in developing countries, he underscored the priority the State had placed on non-communicable diseases in its health and development plan.  Nationally, it was implementing the prevention and control activities in line with the Global Strategy for Surveillance, Prevention and Control of NCDs (2000) and Action Plan for the Global Strategy and Prevention and Control of NCDs (2008-2013).  Those chronic illnesses had also been defined as one of the main strategic areas of the national health plan (2006-2011).  Laws on controlling smoking and tobacco consumption, as well as global recommendations on physical activities for health, had been adopted, while a high-level, multisectoral national mechanism would soon be established to coordinate action among all stakeholders.  Moreover, the Government was drafting and would enact a national policy for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  It believed the international community should support such national efforts with financial and technical assistance.


KOSAL SEA (Cambodia), aligning his country with the statements made by Indonesia on behalf of ASEAN, and by Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that in urban areas of Cambodia, 6 per cent of adults had diabetes and 17 per cent suffered from high blood pressure, while in rural areas, 2 per cent of adults had diabetes and 10 per cent were hypertensive.  Non-communicable diseases had been the cause of 46 per cent of all deaths in 2008 in Cambodia.  However, those diseases were largely preventable.  Cambodia would commit itself to develop and strengthen multisectoral public policies, give priority to prevention, and implement cost-effective policies to reduce common risk factors.  Cambodia would also promote access to comprehensive and cost-effective prevention, and promote, translate and make available research to identify root causes and effective strategies.


SIMA BAHOUS, Assistant Secretary-General for Social Affairs of the League of Arab States, said that the League and the Council of Arab Health Care Ministers attributed particular importance to the meeting and its outcome, as the challenges facing the region were the greatest burden for Arab medical systems and the greatest obstacles to development.  Research showed that the level of non-communicable diseases was increasing, particularly for those between 15 and 59 years of age.  That inhibited the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in countries that suffered from a lack of resources.


She said that the primary strategic goal was to combat non-communicable diseases through integration of targeted services in national medical services and improve the quality of care given to patients.  That also spoke to swift testing, and was based on the principle of primary medical services and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The Gulf States in February had reaffirmed the importance of prevention in health care.  An Arab international conference was due to be held in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, and another health conference of mothers was set to take place, as well.  Those aimed at combating the increasing dangers of non-communicable diseases in the Arab world.


ANDA FILIP, Director, Office of the Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the United Nations, said discussions about non-communicable diseases were plagued with misconception.  Though they were considered diseases of the wealthy, almost 80 per cent of deaths due to diabetes, cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases worldwide occurred in low- and middle-income countries.  Their spread raised political questions about lifestyles, and thus, parliamentarians had an important role in advocating for change and standing up against powerful corporate interests, including through increased taxation.  “Lives can be saved with effective regulations,” he said, citing a French policy to increase taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugary drinks to increase revenue and improve health.


STEFAN SEEBACHER, Head of Health Department of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said those preventable diseases affected many countries, producing a huge economic burden.  Early prevention was critical, reducing the number of deaths resulting from those diseases, saving Governments time and money, and relieving the burden on often over-stretched health-care resources.


He said that health and lifestyle changes were also needed, noting the development by the Federation of a prevention, research and advocacy programme.  The national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies could work hand in hand with national authorities to provide programmes and services.  Such contributions, largely based on prevention, would operate in line with WHO’s strategy.  He pointed out the Federation’s long-standing history of disease prevention, for which it used a holistic health approach.


SYLVIA ANIE, Director, Commonwealth Secretariat, said overcoming poverty and raising standards of life and society were among her organization’s goals.  One third of deaths from non-communicable diseases occurred among those under age 60, and she acknowledged the increasing burden that placed on health-care systems.  Those burdens called for a concerted response, given the fact that non-communicable diseases also hampered development and hobbled efforts towards the achievement of the Millennium Goals.


She said that the Commonwealth Secretariat recognized that those diseases affected the poorest people.  The secretariat’s strategies included capacity building and institutional strengthening.  In addition, youth was an important area of focus, and encouraging young people’s participation was central to the Commonwealth’s aim in that regard.  Often, women and girls acted as principal caregivers for those who fell sick; women were also agents of change.  She lauded the efforts of Commonwealth countries and said the secretariat would continue to work with member countries across all sectors to combat the epidemic.


FRANCESCO MARIA AMORUSO, Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, said the burden of non-communicable diseases in Mediterranean countries required immediate action at regional and international levels.  Her organization had mobilized its unique network to support Member States, as well as international and regional bodies.  It had created a pool of high-level members of parliaments, experts and non-governmental organization representatives in the region to address specific issues in line with international priorities and contribute to implementation of the meeting’s outcome document.  “On behalf of [Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean], I wish to solemnly ensure you that our unique Mediterranean network of parliamentarians remains ready to use its capacity to legislate, oversee the executives and vote on budgets, to ensure that [the] UN agenda on [non-communicable diseases] is implemented as a top priority in our region,” she said.


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For information media • not an official record