Beating NCDs through scaling up FCTC implementation

Montevideo, Uruguay
18 October 2017

WHO FCTC Secretariat

The Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) has offered its experience to assist the global struggle in reducing premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Speaking at the WHO Global Conference on Noncommunicable diseases in Montevideo on October 18, Head of the Convention Secretariat, Dr Vera da Costa e Silva, told delegates that implementation of the WHO FCTC had generated a wealth of knowledge which could greatly benefit the campaign to cut NCD death rates.

“Come and talk to us, so that we can pool ideas and experience,” she said. “We don’t say we’re the only entity with useful lessons for others, but I believe we are one of them … we know how powerful an international treaty can be, and how intersectoral cooperation can make a difference. We also gathered significant experience on how to work in an environment where a powerful industry, the tobacco manufacturers, do everything in their power to prevent effective interventions to be put in place. This cross-fertilization is critical given that the NCD campaign is on a tight schedule, so we mustn’t waste time reinventing the wheel.”

Hosted by the President and the Ministry of Health of Uruguay, the WHO Global Conference on NCDs provides a platform for world leaders to accelerate multisectoral action on NCDs. Implementation of the WHO FCTC has been incorporated into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as target 3.a and thus represents a keystone in the effort to tackle NCDs. Tobacco use is the single most common risk factor for such illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and to a lesser extent, diabetes.

The Montevideo Conference is expected to provide guidance to Member States, adopt a set of global initiatives to accelerate countries’ progress, exchange national experience and strengthen the health sector as the key advocate for enhancing policy coherence.

To effectively tackle NCDs, and so meet SDG target 3.4 of a one-third drop in premature deaths from NCDs by 2030, policies must be agreed for a broad range of sectors and policy areas, including agriculture, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, taxation, trade and urban development.

Dr da Costa e Silva said that past experience with Article 5 of the WHO FCTC indicated that multisectoral action is effective in mobilizing government action.

“We have seen that such governance structures [national coordinating bodies] foster better administration, encouraging joined-up government action, while also informing non-health officials on the contributions they can make and the benefits they could gain through implementing tobacco control measures.”

The Conference of the Parties of the WHO FCTC called on Parties “to develop WHO FCTC implementation plans or highlight WHO FCTC implementation within national multisectoral NCD policies and plans as appropriate to Parties national contexts.” The COP also requested the Convention Secretariat “to promote WHO FCTC implementation as an essential and high-impact strategy for achieving SDG target 3.4”. Upon mandate by the COP, the Secretariat worked with some Parties to promote inclusion of reference to FCTC in the proceedings of the Ministerial Conference and is also a member in WHO's Global Coordination Mechanism.

Dr Tibor Szilagyi, WHO FCTC Secretariat team leader on Reporting and Knowledge Management, said that treaty implementation has been shown to have a significant effect.

“Strong implementation of the Convention has a considerable impact, as demonstrated by the impact assessment exercise carried out under the guidance of COP, and thus offers the prospect of important health benefits to all countries as part of their multisectoral NCD control programmes.”