WHO Launches Tool to Track Progress on Noncommunicable Diseases

Governments are making limited progress, according to the organization, and more action is needed to address them and the main risk factors to meet global targets for reduced premature deaths.

The World Health Organization this week released the WHO Noncommunicable Disease Progress Monitor 2017, which tracks actions by countries to set targets and also implement policies to address four main shared risk factors for NCDs: tobacco, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol. The organization reported that progress around the world has been uneven and insufficient.

Governments around the world must step up their efforts to control noncommunicable diseases to meet globally agreed targets, including preventing the premature deaths of millions of people from these conditions, according to a new WHO report released Sept. 18. It says progress notably has been limited on reducing cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes, which are the world's biggest killers, claiming the lives of 15 million people ages 30 to 70 annually.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, highlighted some advances in responding to NCDs but urged further action: "Bolder political action is needed to address constraints in controlling NCDs, including the mobilization of domestic and external resources and safeguarding communities from interference by powerful economic operators."

The Progress Monitor provides data on 19 indicators in all of WHO's 194 Member States. Highlights of the 2017 edition include these:

  • 93 countries have set national targets to address NCDs, up from 59 in 2015, and 94 have implemented operational multi-sectoral strategies to address NCDs, up from 64 in 2015.
  • 90 countries have developed guidelines for managing the four major NCDs, up from 50 in 2015, while 100 countries have conducted physical activity awareness campaigns.
  • Six countries have not achieved any of the progress indicators, compared with 14 in 2015.
  • Costa Rica and Iran lead the 10 best-performing countries, with each achieving 15 of the 19 indicators, followed by Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (13 for each); and Finland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand (12 each).
  • No country from the WHO Africa region achieved more than eight of the progress indicators.

Dr. Douglas Bettcher, WHO's director for the prevention of NCDs, said the world is not on track to meet the target set by the Sustainable Development Goals of a one-third reduction in premature NCD deaths by 2030. "We need to urgently accelerate progress in the battle to beat NCDs. The window of opportunity to save lives is closing," he said. "This is playing out before our eyes in many ways, including in the increasing numbers of people, particularly children and adolescents, suffering from obesity, overweight, and diabetes. If we don't take action now to protect people from NCDs, we will condemn today's and tomorrow's youth to lives of ill health and reduced economic opportunities."

The latest findings will support a WHO report being submitted to the United Nations Secretary General later this year ahead of the third UN High-level Meeting on NCDs in 2018.

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