Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths, and 82% of the 16 million people who died prematurely, or before reaching 70 years of age, occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The rise of NCDs has been driven by primarily four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
The epidemic of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems. The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century.
WHO’s mission is to provide leadership and the evidence base for international action on surveillance, prevention and control of NCDs. Urgent government action is needed to meet global targets to reduce the burden of NCDs.
One of the most important ways of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is to control unhealthy lifestyle choices that lead to their development. These include reducing the use of tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol, maintaining an active lifestyle and developing a healthy diet. Promotional activities towards these goals are low-cost ways for countries to reduce the number of NCD deaths. Tackling these risk factors can not only save lives, but also provide a huge economic boost for countries.
Beyond prevention methods, management of NCDs is critical. This includes detection, screening and treatment of the diseases, as well as palliative care for those in need. The vast majority of premature deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, where universal health coverage or access to health care services is often limited. The development and promotion of universal health coverage is therefore essential in tackling NCDs and working to reduce the number of preventable global deaths.
Reducing the major risk factors of NCDs – primarily tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity – is the focus of WHO’s Department for the Prevention of NCDs. In 2013, WHO develop the Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020. The plan included nine global targets with the greatest impact towards prevention and management of NCDs.
Noncommunicable diseases are recognized as a major global challenge in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The Agenda sets the goal of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030 through prevention and treatment. WHO plays a key leadership role in the coordination and promotion of the global fight against NCDs and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals target 3.4.
In 2014, WHO launched the Global coordination mechanism on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (GCM/NCD). The first of its kind, this instrument helps Member States, UN organizations and partners to engage in cross-sectoral collaboration to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases.