Non-Communicable Diseases on the Agenda at the World Health Organization

Last month, the World Health Organization released a study which found that non-communicable diseases were the leading causes of deaths worldwide. Specifically the study found, ” In 20081, 36.1 million people died from conditions such as heart disease, strokes, chronic lung diseases, cancers and diabetes. Nearly 80% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.”

At the World Health Assembly this week, that report and ts conclusions are on the agenda.  The UN Foundation’s Negin Janati provides an update from Day 3 of the WHA:

One conference room overflowed today as delegates and partners in global health discussed Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs).  NCDs, diseases that cannot be spread between people by germs, contribute to more than 60 percent of deaths worldwide, yet can be largely curbed through healthy lifestyle choices. NCDs include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Member States examined the current epidemic and prospects for the high-level meeting on the topic at the UN General Assembly in September.

Future of financing for WHO discussions continued today, with large backing from Member States, emphasizing need for strong leadership from WHO, while maintaining independence and neutrality. Dr. Chan pledged to lead personally lead the process, with full transparency and consulting Member States throughout.

A committee approved the programme budget 2012-13 in the amount of US$ 3,959 billion, revised from US$ 4,804 billion. With this budget, the WHO will strengthen heath systems, promote health-related MDGS, and fight Non-communicable diseases, among other health issues. Member States underlined needs for maternal and child health, and requested that programme budget should be aligned with national priorities.

Member States adopted a resolution calling for Israel to take down road blocks to the Gaza strip currently causing shortage of medical supplies and treatment to Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Many delegates considered it too politically-driven to discuss at the World Health Assembly and abstained from voting. The resolution calls on Member States and NGOs to provide assistance, to meet urgent health and humanitarian needs.

A new report supports WHO’s response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.  In a review of the International Health Regulations–guidelines on best practices in responding to pandemics–a committee led by Dr. Harvey Finberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, confirms WHO did not take action in the interest of pharmaceutical companies, a claim made late last year.