WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs

NCD and Women

NCDs challenge development and human rights for everyone and are intrinsically linked to poverty

Noncommunicable diseases act as key barriers to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. 82% of all NCD-related premature deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs cause two in three deaths among women annually, and the burden of mortality and morbidity is expected to increase, especially in low- and middle-income countries .

Equitable access to essential medicines and care is a part of individuals' 'right to health'

At the UN General Assembly in 2011, and again in 2014, world leaders recognised the threat of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – mainly cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – as one of the major challenges for sustainable development in the twenty-first century. They also acknowledged that NCDs are a threat to the economies of many Member States and may lead to increasing inequalities between countries and populations . Sixteen million people die prematurely each year from NCDs, of whom 82% are in low and middle income countries.

NCDs affect women inequitably and more than most people think.

NCDs have been the leading causes of death among women globally for at least the past three decades and are now responsible for two in every three deaths among women each year. This burden is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades, especially in Low and Middle income Countries.

Three enduring myths contribute to the neglect of NCDs in women:

  • First, the persistent view that health-related issues of importance to women are defined through their reproductive capacity.
  • Second, the misperception that NCDs, especially CVDs, primarily are diseases of men.
  • Thirdly, the myth that NCDs in women are an issue only in high-income countries and a result of lifestyle choices.

To overcome the challenge of NCDs, we need everyone to realise the challenges and act on them. Women can be a bigger part of the solution.

NCDs in women should be highlighted and policies and programmes should consider the specific needs and context for women. 25 % of premature deaths can be reduced by 2025 by implementing the best buys. Given the varied risk factors for NCDs – namely, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol – addressing NCDs requires action in sectors beyond health. For example, trade and the environment. Women are change agents for NCD prevention and control.

The role of the GCM/NCD in mobilizing women and other stakeholders on NCDs

Mandated by WHO Member States in 2014 , in the spirit of multi stakeholder and multisector engagement, at all levels, the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs (WHO GCM/NCD) provides a hitherto missing piece in the global ‘NCD architecture’. Its scope and purpose is to facilitate and enhance coordination of activities, multistakeholder engagement and action across sectors at the local, national, regional and global levels, in order to contribute to the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020, while avoiding duplication of efforts, using resources in an efficient and results-oriented way, and safeguarding WHO and public health from any undue influence by any form of real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest .

Functions of the WHO GCM/NCD4 are designed to respond to the multi-faceted nature of the problem of NCDs and include a) advocating and raising awareness of the urgency of implementing the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–20201; mainstreaming the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the international development agenda; and giving due consideration to the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda; b) disseminating knowledge and information: Disseminating knowledge and sharing information based on scientific evidence and/or best practices regarding the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020, including health promotion, prevention, control, monitoring and surveillance of NCDs; c) encouraging innovation and identifying barriers: Provide a forum to identify barriers and share innovative solutions and actions for the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020; d) Advancing multisectoral action by identifying and promoting sustained actions across sectors that can contribute to and support the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020; e) advocating for the mobilization of resources: Identifying and sharing information on existing and potential sources of finance and cooperation mechanisms at the local, national, regional and global levels for the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020.

The wide range of participants of the WHO GCM/NCD is a reflection of the need and desire to engage multiple partners: led by Member States, it participants include United Nations organizations and non-state actors such as non-governmental organizations, philanthropies, business associations and academic institutions.

Given women's capacity as change agents, decision-makers on health in families, and strong advocates on development issues, and the fact that they are adversely affected by NCDs, they are considered a key constituency and stakeholder group, which the WHO GCM/NCD wishes to engage and mobilize for the prevention and control of NCDs.

GCM Activities

On 23 March 2016, the WHO GCM/NCD and the WHO Team on Gender, Equity and Human Rights co-organized together with the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the UN in New York a side-event at the 60th Commission on the Status of Women, at UN Headquarters in New-York, USA.

The event aimed to raise awareness of and prioritise NCDs as development and human rights challenges among women’s organisations, and call on women to take the lead in advocacting nad integrating NCDs into existing development programmes. Speakers offered their insights on the issue, followed by participant inputs and questions during a plenary debate. The event was well attended, with 110 participants joining together, and the call for action well received.

The GCM/NCD also engaged in a strategy lunch with women’s leaders during the Conference, organised by Soon-Young Yoon, UN main representative for International Alliance of Women in New York. The focus of the lunch was how do NCDs limit women’s rights? And how can we build alliances across social movements and women’s leadership?

Going forward, the GCM will be launching a global communications campaign on NCDs in 2016. It is hoped that women’s organizations and many other stakeholders will engage in this endeavour.

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