World health report

Press release

Priorities for action

The World Health Report 1997 indicates priorities for action that are intended to improve mankind's ability to prevent, treat, rehabilitate and where possible, cure major noncommunicable diseases and to reduce the enormous suffering and disability that they cause. It says that as many of the diseases share a relatively small number of crucial risk factors, an integrated, coordinated approach to their prevention is therefore necessary. There is also an urgent need to raise awareness of, and motivation for, healthy lifestyles.

The report's top priorities for international action are summarized as follows:

  • Integration of disease-specific interventions in both physical and mental health into a comprehensive chronic disease control package that incorporates prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation and improved training of health professionals.
  • Fuller application of existing cost-effective methods of disease detection and management, including improved screening, taking into account the genetic diversity of individuals.
  • A major intensified but sustained global campaign to encourage healthy lifestyles, with an emphasis on the healthy development of children and adolescents in relation to risk factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking.
  • Healthy public policies, including sustainable financing, and legislation on pricing and taxation, in support of disease prevention programmes.
  • Acceleration of research into new drugs and vaccines, and into the genetic determinants of chronic diseases.
  • Alleviation of pain, reduction of suffering and provision of palliative care for those who cannot be cured.
  • "Inevitably, each human life reaches its end," the report concludes. "Ensuring that it does so in the most dignified, caring and least painful way that can be achieved deserves as much priority as any other. This is a priority not merely for the medical profession, the health sector or the social services. It is a priority for each society, community, family and individual.