WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs

Dialogue on NCDs and development cooperation, 20-21 April 2015

Dialogue on NCDs, poverty and development cooperation

Dialogue on how to encourage the continued inclusion of noncommunicable diseases in development cooperation agendas and initiatives, internationally agreed development goals, economic development policies, sustainable development frameworks and poverty reduction strategies.

How to support countries in their national efforts to build domestic solutions (based on local insights and global perspectives) that will prevent 13 million people dying prematurely (before the age of 70) each year in developing countries from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) was the focus of a high-level strategic dialogue being held on 20-21 April 2015 in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The multistakeholder Dialogue, which was the first of its kind organized by the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs (GCM/NCD), drew a large and diverse audience of 180 people, including around 60 representatives of Permanent Missions to the United Nations, 55 NGO representatives, eight different UN organizations, and a significant number of eligible participants to the WHO GCM/NCD, including relevant philanthropic organizations, WHO collaborating centres and academic institutions, and selected private sector business associations, who actively contributed their wealth of experience and knowledge during the two-day Dialogue.

The Dialogue took into account the current evidence which indicates that four types of noncommunicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – make the largest contribution to mortality in the majority of developing countries and require concerted, coordinated action. These diseases are largely preventable by means of effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors, namely: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol. In addition, improved disease management can reduce morbidity, disability, and death and contribute to better health outcomes.

Key outcomes of the Dialogue included:

  • A reaffirmation that NCDs constitute one of the major challenges for development in the 21st century.
  • A deeper understanding of the close linkages between NCDs, development and poverty.
  • A plea to work with countries in building and disseminating information and research on how NCDs affect the poorest 20% of the population (or the two lowest income quintiles) at national level, which constitute the ‘bottom billion’ at global level, in order to inform policy makers in the post-2015 era on how to target ODA to the poorest and those most in need.
  • A reaffirmation that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.
  • A reminder that world leaders, in 2011, recognized the primary role and responsibility of governments in responding to the challenge of NCDs, and that, therefore, world leaders committed themselves to integrate NCDs into the national development plan of each Member State.
  • A generally shared notion that:
    • Increased domestic budgetary allocations for NCDs, e.g. through additional alcohol and tobacco taxes, is the crux of implementing national NCD responses in the post-2015 era
    • Investments for strengthening national NCD responses will need to primarily rely on domestic public resources, complemented by international cooperation and partnerships, bilateral and multilateral and innovative sources of financing for NCDs
    • There is demand for catalytic support for technical assistance but this demand is not systematically documented – the international community needs to develop an approach to map the demand for technical assistance from developing countries in the area of NCDs
    • International development agencies have to ‘walk the talk’ and start preparing themselves for providing integrated development solutions to NCDs in the post-2015 era, as NCDs are envisioned to remain firmly embedded in the SDGs
    • The International Financial Institutions need to step up to their commitments to respond to the requests from developing countries to support national NCD responses by raising the priority accorded to NCDs in their programmes
    • Catalytic assistance, through aid and expertise, to support domestic action and to leverage domestic finance, should be provided by the international development agencies, philanthropic foundations and NGOs where technical capacity falls short (e.g. to help developing countries improve tobacco tax legislation and administration)
    • There needs to be greater clarity of the role of the private sector with a view to strengthening the contribution of relevant private sector entities to NCD prevention and control
    • Since health gains can be achieved much more readily by influencing public policies in sectors like trade, taxation, education, agriculture, urban development, food and pharmaceutical production than by making changes in health policy alone, the “how to” experience that will enable countries to adopt multisectoral NCD approaches needs to be made available to all countries
    • International development agencies have yet to fully embrace NCDs in their development programmes, and little progress has been made since 2011, despite their commitments to do so in the 2011 UN Political Declaration and 2014 UN Outcome Document.
  • Discussions on and identification of a number of opportunities for future action, including:
    • Getting NCDs into the ‘DNA’ of international development organizations by explicitly including NCDs in ongoing bilateral and multilateral development cooperation policies
    • Setting up an initiative to mobilize domestic and international partners to address the gap that persists in understanding how NCDs affect ‘the bottom billion’
    • Considering the possible linkages between NCDs and some communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and realizing the call by world leaders in 2011 for integration of responses to HIV/AIDS and NCDs
    • Strengthening policy coherence at national and global levels between the trade, health, and development sectors, including the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), to further public health, and support, in particular, national efforts to provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all, while strengthening safeguards for investment treaties to ensure that the right to regulate is retained in areas critical for health
    • Engaging the private sector, at national and global levels, in government-led national NCD responses that take into account the SDG-related target on NCDs for 2030, the nine global NCD targets for 2025, and the roadmap of national commitments included in the 2011 UN Political Declaration and 2014 UN Outcome Document on NCDs, and the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020
    • Promoting universal health coverage as a means to strengthen and orient health systems to address the prevention and control of NCDs and the underlying social determinants through people-centred, primary health care
    • Continuing to strengthen the monitoring of progress towards NCD-related targets and building linkages between the global NCD accountability framework (which reports to the World Health Assembly, the United Nations General Assembly, and ECOSOC) and the accountability framework that will be established for the SDGs. Accordingly, strengthen the NCD component of national health information systems.
    • Promoting the formation of a future community of practice and research network with a view to gathering data and evidence locally, nationally and globally to inform policymakers on the NCD epidemic among the ‘bottom billion’ and beyond.

[1] Based on 2012 figures from the WHO Global Burden of Disease report.

For more information, please visit the GCM webpage (http://who.int/global-coordination-mechanism/en/) or write to gcmncd@who.int.