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WHO Highlights Global Threat Of NCDs, Need For Action At Moscow Meeting

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a “slow-moving catastrophe” that could overwhelm even the richest countries without action to address their underlying causes, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said at the First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Disease Control in Moscow on Thursday, the U.N. News Centre reports.

“When drugs are available to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and improve glucose metabolism, the situation looks somehow under control. This appearance is misleading,” Chan said, adding that the “root causes” of these diseases – mostly related to lifestyle decisions – are not being addressed. “Chan noted that although the health sector bore the brunt of the diseases, most preventive policies fell within non-health sectors, including trade, agriculture, customs, industry, urban design, and education, where good policies could lead to government approaches that made healthy choices easier,” the news service writes.

“In the absence of urgent action, the rising financial burden of these diseases will reach levels that are beyond the capacity of even the wealthiest countries in the world to cope,” she said (4/28). 

Ahead of the conference, BERNAMA reported that “delegates from 160 WHO member countries, including 89 health ministers … as well as representatives from specialised international organizations of the United Nations” were attending the meeting (4/28).  

Speaking at the conference, South Africa Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi highlighted his concern about the rise of NCDs in South Africa, BusinessDay reports.

Motsoaledi said South Africa should give NCDs the same amount of attention it gives HIV/AIDS (Benjamin, 4/29). He also talked about the need for South Africa to focus on preventive care and shift away from the “hospi-centric model of health delivery” because it is “too expensive and not sustainable,” SAPA/Times LIVE reports. “Waiting for people to first get ill and then receive them in hospitals for treatment is not a correct model of health delivery,” he said (4/29).

BMJ News reports on another meeting held a day before the conference, which “included non-governmental organisations, patients’ organisations, the private sector, professional organisations, and other groups.”

At the close of that meeting, Chan talked about how the WHO is “not a good way to hear all the voices.” But the meeting also focused on the need for NCDs to be addressed by a variety of stakeholders. Chan said “a social movement” for dealing with NCDs is needed, as well as institutions that can use a “whole of government and whole of society approach,” BMJ News writes (Smith, 4/28).