Ramp up efforts to prevent and control spread of non-communicable diseases: WHO

WHO said that non-communicable diseases account for two-thirds of all deaths in South East Asia.

The World Health Organization has urged member countries in South East Asia to accelerate efforts to prevent and control spread of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which account for two-thirds of all deaths in the region, while also increasing the risk of severe Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerabilities of people living with non-communicable diseases. In addition to the increased risk of severe disease and death, disruption in essential services threatens to slow down progress and even reverse the gains in controlling NCDs,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region, said at the Regional Committee meeting.

Prevention and control of NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension etc, is one of the flagship priorities of Dr Khetrapal Singh. Since 2014, member countries have been making concerted efforts, implementing multi-sectoral plans, providing, and scaling up NCD services at the primary health care level, promoting physical activity, taxing sugary drinks, taking multiple actions to control tobacco use, and promoting mental health, among others.

“We need to address NCDs and include them as an integral part of pandemic preparedness and response. This will help establish mechanisms for uninterrupted access to NCD services during emergencies, and reduce risk of serious health complications,” the regional director said.

In view of the continuing challenges, member countries discussed extending the Regional Action Plan for Prevention and Control of NCDs to meet SDG 2030 targets.

The member countries also discussed integrated eye care and oral health and developing Regional Action Plans for them as well. Oral cancer is one of the top five types of cancer. The region also has one of the highest prevalence of visual impairment and blindness globally.

Nearly half of the deaths due to NCDs occur prematurely between 30 and 69 years of age. A quarter of the adult population in the region suffers from hypertension and every twelfth adult has diabetes.

The member countries discussed developing a regional NCD Implementation Roadmap 2022–2030 to provide operational guidance on “how to” sustain gains, accelerate action in areas that need greater emphasis and pilot innovative approaches in the Region to achieve SDG Target 3.4.

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