Six Mideast Countries Join in NCD Strategy

Noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer cause more than 60 percent of all deaths in the six GCC countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

The World Health Organization applauded the decision of The Gulf Cooperation Council to become the first regional body to develop a strategy for addressing diseases, including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory diseases, as called for by the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). The council's ministers of health agreed during a meeting in Muscat, Oman, last week, according to WHO.

The UN General Assembly adopted its Political Declaration on NCDs in 2011. These diseases cause more than 60 percent of all deaths in the six GCC countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- and result from risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity.

"The regional strategy details what the six countries will be doing to tackle NCDs during the next years in terms of reducing people's exposure to causative risk factors and improving services to prevent and treat these leading health problems," said Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, the Omani minister of health, who chaired the meeting. "It also highlights what the six countries will do to set targets and measure results, advance multi-sectoral action, and strengthen national capacity."

"We have the knowledge of what works to prevent and treat NCDs, a global public health and development problem of increasing significance to many countries," said WHO's regional director-elect for the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr. Ala Alwan. "We are pleased to see the Gulf Cooperation Council countries taking concrete action to implement affordable best practices to curb NCDs, and we hope other regions will take similar action. Up to 50 percent of people dying from these diseases in some of the Gulf countries die prematurely, before the age of 60 years. This initiative by the GCC should be a major landmark in stopping these premature deaths."

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