United Nations to establish WHO-led Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases
Geneva - The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted a resolution requesting the UN Secretary-General to establish a United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control on Noncommunicable Diseases. The Task Force will be convened and led by the WHO and will be created by expanding the mandate of the existing United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Task Force on Tobacco Control and the work to support the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The resolution was adopted in ECOSOC’s 2013 Substantive Session being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Task Force will coordinate the activities of all UN organizations to implement the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020, adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2013. This is important because new WHO estimates show that 3 of the 4 leading causes of death worldwide are linked to noncommunicable diseases, specifically cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The Action Plan aims to achieve 9 voluntary global targets, including a 25% reduction in premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases by 2025. The plan provides a road map and a menu of policy options for Member States, WHO, other UN organizations, NGOs and private sector entities to implement collectively.
Heads of State and Government in 2011 recognized the role and responsibility of governments in reducing noncommunicable diseases through the United Nations Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. With this resolution, ECOSOC is following up on those commitments.
WHO will convene a formal meeting with Member States on 13 November 2013 to complete the work on a draft terms of reference for the UN Task Force on NCDs.
One of the major challenges for development in the 21st century
The global burden of NCDs – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases – constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the 21st century. The vast majority (86%) of deaths between the ages of 30 and 70 from these diseases occur in low- and middle-income countries, representing 12 million premature deaths per year. Most of these deaths are linked to common risk factors, namely tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. Premature deaths from NCDs cause human suffering, reduce productivity, curtail economic growth, and increase the financial burden for patients due to the high cost of health care that drives families below the poverty line.
To prevent premature deaths from NCDs, non-health sectors also need to take action. The Task Force will provide developing countries with policy advice, technical assistance and capacity building. It will share lessons learned in mobilizing different sectors of government to respond to NCDs.
A role for each UN organization
Within the UN System, WHO has been leading efforts to support countries in efforts to prevent and control NCDs. Flagship initiatives are under development with IAEA, ITU, UNAIDS and UNDP. Other UN agencies have expressed their interest to share current scientific knowledge, available evidence and international experience.
The UN will define and agree on a common system-wide division of roles and responsibilities to efficiently support national country efforts to address NCDs in the coming year. It is vital that UN organizations increase their capacity to deal with NCDs, develop joint programmes with WHO, and mobilize partners including governments, NGOs and the private sector, while safeguarding public health from any potential conflict of interest.
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