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WHO Global Conference Sounds Alarm On Non-Communicable Diseases As One Of The Major Health Challenges Of Our Time

Need To Accelerate Action Or Fail To Meet 2030 Target To Prevent Millions Of Premature Deaths

The message was clear, based on the current rate of decline in premature mortality among persons aged between 30-70, the world will not meet its 2030 goal to reduce these deaths by one third.

And the problem is huge, made up mostly of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

Burden of Disease

According to the WHO, in 2015, NCDs were responsible for 40 million deaths, representing 70% of all deaths worldwide. A large proportion of deaths were premature: over 15 million people (38% of NCD deaths and 27% of all global deaths) died between the ages of 30 and 70. 85% of premature deaths from NCDs occurred in developing countries, including 41% in lower-middle-income countries where the probability of dying from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 70 is up to four times higher than in developed countries. Most of these 15 million premature deaths from NCDs could have been prevented or delayed.

The Montevideo Roadmap emerging from a recent conference in Montevideo represents “a bold commitment by governments to intensify action to protect people from the harms of NCDs,” according to the President of Uruguay, a co-organizer of the meeting. He added “the human and economic costs are far too great to ignore.”


Some of the key barriers to further progress are difficult to tackle and include countering the influence of the private sector on governments which prioritize trade over public health goals, and the lack of high-level political leadership that ensures that health in all policies is adopted as a strategy. This latter barrier is important since many of the main drivers of ill health lie outside the control of health ministries, systems, and professionals, according to conference organizers.

Risk Factors

The main risk factors identified in the report are tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and air pollution. The bulk of NCD preventable deaths could be prevented by addressing these risk factors.


The Roadmap’s recommendations are organized around 9 categories, including:

·       Reinvigorate political action

·       Enable health systems to respond more effectively to NCDs

·       Increase significantly the financing of national NCD responses and international cooperation

·       Increase efforts to engage sectors beyond health

·       Reinforce the role of non-State actors

·       Seek measures to address the negative impact of products and environmental factors harmful for health

·       Strengthen the contribution and accountability of the private sector and other non-State actors

·       Continue relying on WHO leadership and key role in the global response to NCDs

·       Act in unity

To read the Roadmap document and the full list of recommended actions, visit:

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