International Cooperation to Boost National Prevention Capacities in Fighting Non-communicable Diseases Stressed during Round Table Discussion

19 September 2011

International Cooperation to Boost National Prevention Capacities in Fighting Non-communicable Diseases Stressed during Round Table Discussion

19 September 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases

Round Table 2 (PM)

International Cooperation to Boost National Prevention Capacities in Fighting

Non-communicable Diseases Stressed during Round Table Discussion


Participants in this afternoon’s round table discussion on non-communicable diseases stressed the urgency of international cooperation to boost national capabilities in prevention, policy formulation, monitoring and analysis, as well as building health-care systems.

“Without such urgency, we lose momentum and economic and social burdens will rise to an unbearable level,” President Pál Schmitt of Hungary said as he opened the second round table of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the theme of which was “Strengthening national capacities, as well as appropriate policies, to address prevention and control of non-communicable diseases”.  Co-chairing the discussion was Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg, Minister for Health of Mexico.

President Schmitt said that national efforts would benefit from legislative and policy solutions as well as sustainable health-care models supported by international conventions, programmes and activities, and by internationally-developed decision-making support tools to monitor national situations.

Mr. Chertorivski said chronic diseases must be a priority because they both exacerbated and fed into all the global crises that had given rise to the challenges faced by most countries.  While programmes and measures were broadly being put in place, stronger political will and cooperation were needed to support national efforts.  Multisectoral action was essential for that purpose, he stressed, pointing to a Mexican tax policy that discouraged smoking, among other measures.

He went on to say that universal health-care coverage should also be encouraged across the board, considering the number of people who fell into poverty as a result of catastrophic illness.  Mexico was working towards such a system, he said, adding that, as a result, the chances for survival of many who suffered from non-communicable diseases had increased significantly.  However, technical and financial assistance would be needed to help countries build and transform their health-care systems and obtain the desired results over the long term.

In the discussion following those introductory remarks, representatives of Member States and organizations highlighted national efforts taking place in both globalized and local contexts.  Vanuatu’s representative, describing his country’s isolation, said that obtaining adequate human-resource capability was extremely difficult and called for greater international assistance in training and developing health-care systems.  Cuba’s representative and many other speakers proposed international solidarity in both areas.

Numerous speakers noted that they had mobilized much action in the policy arena and on the ground in response to HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.  Botswana’s representative said that experience and progress in that area must now also be directed toward non-communicable diseases, with international assistance also broadening its focus.  Regional approaches for many related problems could be useful for that purpose, he added.  Norway’s representative also described some areas in which a regional approach could be useful, citing the standardized system for labelling food ingredients developed in the Nordic countries.

Speakers also emphasized the multisectoral nature of the fight against non-communicable diseases at the national level, supported by international programmes.  Finland’s representative, describing her country’s pioneering “Health in All Policies Approach”, said mainstreaming health required working against social exclusion and other socio-economic problems in an integrated way.  Health must also be better integrated into development in all international cooperation, she added.  Other speakers called specifically on the World Health Organization (WHO) to better integrate its efforts into the broader development agenda.

Several speakers stressed the need for better monitoring and data collection, with a representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stressing the importance of understanding specific national and community needs and of tracking non-communicable diseases and their risk factors in ways that would make it easier to address the illnesses.  Participants also described awareness-raising campaigns for healthier lifestyles; Georgia’s representative presented two puppets, saying they were spreading that message all over the local media.

One area of prevention that had attracted much attention in many countries was strategies for reducing tobacco use, many speakers said, describing action taken on the taxation, advertising and regulation fronts as well as the banning of smoking in public spaces.  New Zealand’s representative said the country was aiming to be completely smoke-free by 2025, while others mentioned improved regulation of alcohol sales and advertising.

Iran’s representative said his country had banned advertising for certain foods containing unhealthy ingredients, while his counterpart from France highlighted the banning of certain kinds of snack-vending machines, adding that the legislation to change behaviour should be an ongoing discussion at both national and international level.  International regulation was critical because of the power of corporations relative to that of small countries, Hungary’s representative emphasized as Papua New Guinea’s representative called on industrialized countries to stop subsidizing the export of unhealthy food products to the developing world.

Some speakers presented experimental innovations for lifestyle change, saying that, if shown to be successful, they could be international models.  In that vein, Brazil’s representative described a programme to rebuild urban spaces for healthier lifestyles, which would include physical activity.  Sweden’s representative said her country had pioneered the policy of exercise by prescription, whereby health professionals prescribed specific regimes for patients.

A representative of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) cautioned, however, that only a fraction of interventions had actually made a difference in lowering the incidence and impact of non-communicable diseases.  With resources under pressure, evidence of the impact of interventions was crucial, he stressed.  A representative of the International Diabetes Association, representing a network of other health organizations, emphasized nevertheless that Governments must act now on the basis of successful strategies against HIV/AIDS and other areas.  “You must lead and NGOs will be with you,” she said.

Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Canada, Indonesia, Peru, Bulgaria, Ireland, Argentina, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Spain, United States, Germany, Switzerland, Madagascar, Denmark, Malaysia, Côte d’Ivoire, Turkey and Malta.

A representative of the League of Arab States also spoke.

Others participating were representatives of the International Development Law Organization, International Narcotics Control Board, American Cancer Society and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The final round table of the high-level meeting, under the theme “Fostering international cooperation, as well as coordination, to address non-communicable diseases”, will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 20 September.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.