In an effort to address the growing problem of non-communicable diseases, representatives from 40 European countries will gather in Norway tomorrow under the auspices of the United Nations health agency to discuss what the region needs to do to respond to the crisis.
The two-day consultation in Oslo comes ahead of the UN high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), to be held in September next year, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The four most common NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases – have been recognized as the key health priority in the WHO European Region this decade. These illnesses account for 77 per cent of the disease burden and 86 per cent of all deaths in the 53 countries in the WHO European Region.
Tackling NCDs is a priority for every government because they are often linked to common risk factors, including smoking, harmful use of alcohol, obesity and physical inactivity, which are largely preventable, says the agency.
The diseases also take a strong financial toll on Europe’s health systems and may threaten their viability. They also constitute an economic burden in terms of health care costs, lost working time, and early death and disability, threatening economic growth and productivity.
“We urgently need to address the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases in Europe and mobilize all sectors of society to build a truly large-scale, multisectoral response,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “European countries should play a leading role in the global effort to control this epidemic.”
The Oslo consultation will particularly focus on development challenges and will discuss the importance of tackling health inequities and social determinants of health.
“The considerable and emerging burden caused by NCDs is of great concern to policy-makers in Europe as well as worldwide,” says Jonas Gahr Støre, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs. “The United Nations global summit on NCDs and the WHO consultation in Oslo provide us with vital opportunities to discuss and share experiences in this field.”
In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that the global prevalence of leprosy has been reduced by 90 per cent over the past two decades, and that the world is on the verge of eliminating the disease as a public health problem.
He lamented, however, that people affected by the illness, also known as Hansen’s Disease, continue to face discrimination and are often denied their rights.
“People with Hansen’s Disease know better than anyone else what they need. They should be consulted every step of the way,” Mr. Ban said in video message to the World Forum on Hansen’s Disease, which opened today in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea.
“Working together, we can give every patient the treatment they deserve and protect the right of every person with Hansen’s Disease to live fully and equally in society,” he told delegates at the three-day gathering.
He said that although leprosy is not easily diagnosed, it is easy to cure and, thanks to donations from the pharmaceutical industry, all people who are affected can get the drugs they need for free.