WHO Global Forum on chronic diseases focuses attention on worldwide prevention efforts
3 November 2004 | Geneva/Ottawa - The Fourth World Health Organization (WHO) Global Forum on Chronic Disease Prevention and Control opened today in Ottawa, Canada. The Forum brings together senior level country officials, international agencies and non-Governmental organizations, as well as chronic disease and public health experts from around the world to focus on the growing global burden of chronic diseases. Of the estimated 57 million global deaths last year, 33 million were attributed to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.
“Chronic diseases are a major global health problem and a key barrier to development, to alleviating poverty and to making progress towards the Millennium Development Goals," said Dr. LEE Jong-wook, WHO Director-General. "We know enough to act now. Cost-effective preventive and clinical interventions are available and need to be implemented globally. What we need are the resources to move from policy to action, and strong leadership from health ministries for coordinated national action."
"Canada is pleased to be co-hosting this important meeting with the World Health Organization," said Canada's Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. "Two out of three adult Canadians have one or more of the major risk factors leading to preventable chronic diseases - unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and smoking. The major challenge for Canada is to mount comprehensive multi-sectoral and multi-level preventive efforts to make a difference."
The Forum is being hosted by the new Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. The Agency is providing strategic leadership in developing integrated policies for the prevention and control of chronic diseases in Canada, and, through its WHO Collaborating Centre, the Agency also works to advance the global chronic disease prevention agenda. The Agency is also the lead partner on several disease specific initiatives – such as cancer and diabetes – and will continue to work with organized groups and governments dedicated to these issues nationally and internationally.
“The total cost to Canada of illness, disability, and death from the four leading preventable chronic diseases – cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory and diabetes – is estimated at C$45 billion annually,” said Canadian Minister of State (Public Health) Dr. Carolyn Bennett. “The cost in terms of quality of life is immeasurable. Although these chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems facing Canadians, they are also among the most preventable.”
The Forums, which bring together WHO's six regional chronic disease prevention and control networks to foster the sharing of best practices and knowledge to Member States worldwide, began in Geneva in 2001 and have since been held in Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. The focus of WHO chronic disease prevention and control efforts is on encouraging countries to develop coherent and integrated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder national strategies. The forum will be followed by the first National Conference on Integrated Chronic Disease Prevention: Getting it Together, which is being organized by the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, in Ottawa from 6 - 9, November, 2004.
This year’s discussion will focus on implementing two landmark WHO policies, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, endorsed last year and expected to be in legal force by 2005, and the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, endorsed by WHO Member States earlier this year. Both are key elements in WHO's Strategy for Integrated Chronic Disease Prevention and Control.
The Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy is in line with the recommendations of WHO's Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health in addressing common risk factors for chronic diseases and their underlying conditions in society. WHO believes that Canada’s experience in supporting its Healthy Living Strategy can inform and assist WHO in the development of implementation guidelines and policy advice for this strategy.
"We urgently need to bring home to the people and governments of the world, the dangers posed by the growing epidemic of chronic diseases to health services and to successful socioeconomic development," said Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. "The reality is that already more people die of so-called 'rich country diseases' in low- and middle-income countries, than in the developed world. Obesity, diet and smoking-related diseases are no longer solely developed country problems – this is a major global health issue with serious financial and social implications for countries around the world."