Global Response against Non-communicable Diseases Must Be Urgent, Comprehensive, Fully Coordinated, Say Speakers at Final Round-table Discussion

20 September 2011

Global Response against Non-communicable Diseases Must Be Urgent, Comprehensive, Fully Coordinated, Say Speakers at Final Round-table Discussion

20 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 3 (AM)

Global Response against Non-communicable Diseases Must Be Urgent, Comprehensive,

Fully Coordinated, Say Speakers at Final Round-table Discussion


An international framework to control non-communicable diseases must include broad factors and actors at every level, speakers said this morning at the final round table at the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the threat.

“Our response must be urgent, it must be comprehensive, and it has to be fully coordinated at the national, regional and global levels,” Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis, Chairperson of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said, as he opened the third round table of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.  The theme for the discussion was “Fostering international cooperation as well as coordination, to address non-communicable diseases”, and was co-chaired by Walter Gwenigale, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia.

Mr. Douglas said priority must be given to international coordination on monitoring the diseases, on measures to reduce risk factors and on strengthening health-care systems.  He said that non-communicable diseases were the new frontier in global health, as they had been previously hidden from the international agenda.  There was now a social and moral imperative to respond to them through coordinated, global action.  Mr. Gwenigale added that the principle of equity should guide such action.

In that light, many speakers proposed that the global fight against non-communicable diseases be modelled after action against HIV/AIDs, which they say had mobilized great political will in the past ten years.  Like HIV, non-communicable diseases represented an epidemic of alarming proportions, the representative of Mauritius said.  Some speakers proposed a coordinating body, possibly under the World Health Organization (WHO), with some saying that WHO should be strengthened for that purpose.  The representative of Poland said that an international network of organizations specializing in non-communicable diseases would be valuable.

The representative of Serbia and other speakers noted that international cooperation was critical simply because of the high cost of advanced therapies for cancer and other non-communicable diseases, including equipment, specialized medical care and pharmaceuticals.  With many speakers pointing to the need for access to low-cost drugs, the representative of the African Heart Network advocated cooperation to allow their local manufacture.  The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Executive Director Margaret Chan, stressed the difference between reasonable profit and greed in drug pricing.

Representing the organization Livestrong, champion bicyclist Lance Armstrong, describing his worldwide collaboration with Nike, said that there were many cancer therapies that were affordable and effective and could be adapted to any existing health-care system right now. 

In that vein, India’s representative described initiatives to produce high-technology treatments at lower cost for developing countries, along with the training of medical expertise for those countries.  The representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noting that up to 70 per cent of cancer patients in developing countries had no access to radiotherapy, said his organization was therefore working with many countries to build sustainable capacity for that therapy and other nuclear medicine. 

The development of primary health-care systems was key, the representative of Japan said, noting that after 50 years of universal health care in the country, it had attained the highest life expectancy in the world.  He said it was important to share best practices from that experience, and his country was participating in numerous conferences for that purpose.  The representative of Mexico said that the sharing of experiences in all areas of prevention and treatment were critical for the quickest progress possible in fighting non-communicable diseases.

Collaboration with the academic world was also critical for international cooperation, the representative of Grenada said, describing initiatives of her Government and the Saint George Medical School that had multiple partners in the Caribbean and beyond.  Another sector with global reach was international sports, said the representative of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, advocating for sports to be integrated into international educational efforts, and also through wide partnerships.

One of the most important global sectors for preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases was agriculture, many speakers pointed out.  The representative of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) described initiatives to counter the negative effects of globalization on the food supply of populations, particularly those in poor countries.  People must have access to local, healthy foods at all seasons, she said.  A representative of Consumers International said that the design of any system for monitoring and regulating food marketing for health must be well-designed and not dominated by corporate advocates.

Among other sectors deemed crucial in the international effort, a representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that a holistic approach to health on the international agenda must address security and human rights, while a representative of the International Telecommunications Union stressed the importance of communications technologies in awareness campaigns, as well as their use in treatment and emergency response. 

On the fight against tobacco, some speakers said international coordination was critical because of the power of the tobacco industry.  The representative of Australia, displaying the proposed packaging of tobacco that shows only a graphic depiction of oral cancer, said that big tobacco was pulling out all stops to fight it.  She announced additional funding from her country to support the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, calling it an important tool.  Uruguay’s representative described the importance of South-South cooperation in countering tobacco company campaigns.  Applauding such efforts, Ms. Chan of WHO urged vigilance, however.  “Watch out.  Even an old dog like the tobacco industry can learn some dirty new tricks,” she said.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of Chile, Russian Federation, Togo, Fiji, Morocco, Portugal, Thailand, Mongolia, United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya, Algeria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Maldives, Sudan and the Philippines.

Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, World Economic Forum, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, Consumers International, World Heart Federation, Pan American Health Organization, International Organization for Migration, and the League of Arab States also made statements.

The high-level meeting will close this afternoon with a plenary at 3 p.m.

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