WHO has recently launched the WHO Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) Progress Monitor to urge all governments globally to step up their efforts in controlling NCDs. Progress has been impeded in many countries and bolder actions are urgently needed to address these constraints.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are the responsible for 70% of all deaths globally, making it the leading cause of death. Annually, about 15 million people aged between 30 to 70 years old succumb to these diseases.

NCDs share key modifiable behavioural risk factors, which has an impact on obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol level, and ultimately, disease.

Tackling this public health challenge is an ongoing task and no country is spared from the risk. The modern way of life and consumption trend has much affected global standards of health.

Action must be taken now to protect the global population from NCDs. Otherwise, today’s and tomorrow’s youth are condemned to lives of ill-heath and reduced economic opportunities, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO wants to monitor progress closely for a better global future

The Progress Monitor is based on the latest data tracked against 19 progress indicators. These include setting time-bound National NCD targets, routine generation of cause-specific mortality data, completion of comprehensive health examination surveys every five years and an operational national NCD policy, strategy or action plan.

The monitor also tracks the actions taken by countries to set targets and implement policies in addressing four major shared risk factors for NCDs: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol. Other measures including public education, management guidelines and counselling are also factored in.

Some other key highlights of the 2017 edition include an increase in the number of countries setting national targets to address NCDs – from 59 in 2015 to 93 in 2017. A total of 100 countries have also conducted physical activity awareness campaigns and 94 countries have implemented operational multisectoral strategies to address NCDs – 30 more than in 2015.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted advances in responding to NCDs, but urged further action. Photo credit: Denis Balibouse/Reuters/Scroll.in
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted advances in responding to NCDs, but urged further action. Photo credit: Denis Balibouse/Reuters/Scroll.in

In his foreword to the Monitor, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted advances in responding to NCDs but urged further action, "Bolder political action is needed to address constraints in controlling NCDs, including the mobilisation of domestic and external resources and safeguarding communities from interference by powerful economic operators."

More actions taken; less deaths due to NCDs

NCDs are costly and has an impact on the economy, above all.

Earlier this year, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said that its healthcare spending has outpaced economic growth, contributing the cause to be due to an increase in NCDs.

According to the country’s Social Security Organisation, the number of deaths due to NCDs is greater than other causes, including road accidents. Last year, in the private sector alone, approximately 46 workers die or become disabled every day due to NCDs.

Furthermore, the MOH also highlighted that health spending per person in Malaysia has doubled in 17 years. The MOH is now looking into ways to optimise the current healthcare delivery system and promoting a better partnership between the private and public healthcare sectors.

Over in Singapore – ranked as the healthiest country in Asia and the fourth-healthiest in the world – the country has already declared a national war against diabetes. It is a growing problem that foresees the number of diabetics to rise to 670,000 by 2030 and nearly 1 million by 2050, if nothing is done.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health is now embarking on a multi-pronged approach, tackling on five fronts. This involves: prevention, screening, better disease management, public education and a nation-wide effort.

A first in Asia, seven major soft drinks manufacturers have also recently agreed to reduce their sugar content in their products sold in Singapore by 2020.

With greater awareness and more public education, the WHO hopes the window of opportunity can be stopped from fast closing in on NCDs. MIMS

Read more:
Breaking down the Global Burden of Disease report
WHO urges all countries to implement tax on sugary drinks
UN Global Burden of Disease study: Singapore ranks first in achieving health-related target