The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and World Heart Federation (WHF) issued a joint statement on 19 May 2009 that calls on the international community to address urgently the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), responsible for 35 million deaths a year. The statement demands a substantial increase in funding for NCDs and greater availability of essential medicines, among other urgent responses, in a way to accelerate achievement of the Health Millennium Development Goals.
Public health experts are concerned about the impact of the global economic crisis and warn that the emerging epidemic of NCDs is threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems worldwide unless action is taken. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases cause 60% of all deaths worldwide, with four in every five of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs are an under-appreciated cause of poverty and now present a serious barrier to economic development. They are estimated to reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 5% in many low- and middle-income countries, dealing a double blow to fragile economies struggling in the global recession.
Professor Pekka Puska, President of the World Heart Federation, states: "We can no longer ignore the burden that cardiovascular disease, together with the other NCDs including diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, is placing on countries that are least equipped to deal with them. We urgently call on the international community to ensure that the funding models applied to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria are expanded to stop the spiralling death rates from NCDs before the most vulnerable are pushed further into the poverty trap."-
NCDs impact on the world
IDF, WHF and UICC are united by their concern with the consequences of physical inactivity, tobacco use and poor diet, three avoidable risk factors that contribute significantly to the NCDs responsible for 60% of global mortality.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. An estimated 17.2 million people die from CVD each year and that toll could increase to almost 20 million by 2015. The incidence of deaths attributable to CVD continues to rise sharply, accounting for 30% of all deaths globally. Around 80% of these deaths and 87% of related disabilities occur in low- and middle-income countries. Cardiovascular disease affects the heart or blood vessels and includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. More than 11 million new cases are diagnosed each year and about 8 million people die from cancer--over 70% of them in low- and middle-income countries. With current trends, 15.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2030, and about 12 million people will die from the disease. Yet, we have more knowledge than ever before on how to bring cancer under control. About one-third (30-40%) of all cancers can be prevented, a further third can be cured (given early diagnosis and treatment) and effective palliative care can be provided to the other patients.
Professor David Hill, President of the International Union against Cancer states: "Now, more than ever, we need to join efforts to give cancer and the other NCDs the priority they deserve. The advantages that stand to be gained from the strength of strategic international partnerships, such as the one between our three organizations, will contribute towards a more effective global response to NCDs."-
Call for Action
The joint statement issued today in Geneva was timed to coincide with the meeting of the World Health Assembly. The organizations highlighted their support for the WHO Action Plan and call for the international community to:
1. Ensure the availability of essential medicines for people living with NCDs in low- and middle- income countries
2. Immediately and substantially increase financing for NCDs
3. Integrate NCD prevention into national health systems and the global development agenda
4. Create a Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for NCDs
5. Support a UN General Assembly Special Session on NCDs
WHO has shown that simple, cost-effective solutions exist to take on the burgeoning epidemic of NCDs. If the international community acts now, hundreds of millions of lives could be saved and the quality of life improved for millions more. Such action would bring the international community closer to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. Failure to act will have a detrimental effect on healthcare systems and economies worldwide. Governments who invest in prevention now will be spared the overwhelming costs of chronic care later.