Billions of people around the world are affected by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and mental disorders at all stages of the life course, from childhood to old age.
Four diseases – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, account for most of the NCD burden.
In 2015, countries agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a specific NCD target within Goal 3 on health, which is a one-third reduction of premature NCD mortality by 2030 through prevention and treatment of NCDs and the promotion of mental health and well-being (SDG target 3.4).
Despite the many proven interventions and commitments to combat NCDs, progress has been slow and uneven globally. Challenges to achieving these commitments include lack of political will and priority setting, the impact of economic, commercial and market factors, and insufficient financing and capacity.
The WHO Independent High-level Commission on NCDs was convened by the WHO Director-General in October 2017 to advise him on how countries can accelerate progress towards achieving SDG target 3.4.
Taking into account previous work, as well as additional innovative thinking, the Commission agreed on six key recommendations:
Political leadership and responsibility, from capitals to villages.
Heads of State and Government, not Ministers of Health only, should oversee the process of creating ownership at national level of NCDs and mental health.
Political leaders at all levels, including the subnational level, for example, city mayors, should take responsibility for comprehensive local actions, together with the health sector, that can advance action against NCDs and mental disorders.
Governments should identify and implement a specific set of priorities within the overall NCD and mental health agenda, based on public health needs.
Governments should reorient health systems to include health promotion and the prevention and control of NCDs and mental health services in their UHC policies and plans, according to national contexts and needs.
Governments should ensure that the national UHC public benefit package includes NCD and mental health services, including health promotion and prevention and priority health care interventions as well as access to essential medicines and technologies.
Primary health services should be strengthened to ensure equitable coverage, including essential public health functions, with an adequate and well-equipped multi-disciplinary health workforce, especially including community health workers and nurses.
Synergies should be identified in existing chronic-care platforms, such as HIV and TB, to jumpstart NCD and mental health services.
Governments should increase effective regulation, appropriate engagement with the private sector, academia, civil society, and communities, building on a whole-of-society approach to NCDs, and share experiences and challenges, including policy models that work. (UNI)