Fourth Global Forum on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control

Ottawa, Canada
3 November 2004

Honourable Ministers, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Fourth Global Forum on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control. Chronic diseases now account for 60% of the deaths that occur globally each year, and there is an urgent need in all countries for more effective approaches to dealing with them. This Forum gives us the opportunity to take a major step towards meeting that need.

I would like to thank the Government and people of Canada for their warm hospitality and commitment to making this meeting a success. Canada's substantial influence on global public health has been evident for many years, particularly through the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. In addition, Canada played a leading role in developing and negotiating the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adopted by the World Health Assembly last year. The Convention now needs just seven more ratifications before it can come into force.

The Global Strategy on Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Control, and the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, have also benefited from strong Canadian support. What we have to do now is translate these strategy and policy commitments into practical action.

The need for action is urgent. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and other chronic diseases, are now causing more deaths in the poorer countries than in the richer ones. In addition, in the poorer countries it is young and middle-aged adults who are increasingly being affected. This makes chronic diseases a major barrier to poverty reduction and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Chronic disease prevention measures need to become a significant part of every health system. They should not have to compete with interventions for infectious diseases but be recognized as an integral part of the health services as a whole, and add to their strength.

There is no need to wait for further research findings on how to do this, though these will always be valuable. We know more than enough to act now.

The World Health Assembly has adopted landmark policies on tobacco, and on diet and physical activity. These policies stress the importance of taking an integrated approach to reducing chronic diseases. They give us an unprecedented opportunity to move ahead and improve health through effective cooperation between all of the sectors and actors involved.

WHO is fully committed to the task of tackling chronic diseases and their causes. What we need now is leadership from health ministries for coordinated national action and the resources to turn policy into action.

That is what this meeting is aiming for and I strongly urge Member States to support this work. I wish you every success.

Thank you.