UN chief calls for more efforts to address non-communicable diseases

Xinhua Published: 2018-09-28 06:39:05
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday underscored the challenges non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose to global health, calling for more efforts to address them.

At a General Assembly meeting on NCDs, he noted in his remarks, delivered by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, that NCDs are responsible for some 70 percent of deaths globally.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres poses on September 27, 2018 at the United Nations in New York.  [Photo: VCG]

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres poses on September 27, 2018 at the United Nations in New York.  [Photo: VCG]

"Every year, they are responsible for millions of premature deaths... 85 percent of these early deaths occur in developing countries," Guterres said through his deputy.

The UN chief went on to elaborate on the economic, environmental, social aspects of the NCDs.

"The costs of NCDs are enormous -- not only to the people affected, but also to national budgets, health systems, and the global economy," according to his speech.

Also, climate change, to which air pollution is relevant, puts the risk of NCDs on the rise, he pointed out.

Air pollution causes a quarter of adult deaths from both heart disease and stroke, while it is responsible for some 30 percent of deaths due to lung cancer, the remarks cited the World Health Organization as saying. "The result is an alarming loss of 7 million lives prematurely each year to polluted air."

The secretary-general also pointed to the need to address the long-neglected mental health.

"One-in-four of us will experience a mental health episode at some point in our life," he said. "One-in-five of adolescents experience a mental health disorder in any given year."

Moreover, alcohol and drug use deserves greater attention, Guterres stressed, detailing more than 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol, and almost half a million because of drug abuse.

He also called to attention that the world is facing a double burden of under- and over-nutrition, with some 810 million people undernourished and at the same time overweight and obesity skyrocketing.

Concluding these remarks, Guterres urged member states to ensure that NCDs "are embedded in the greater health and development agenda, including strengthening health systems and moving towards universal health coverage."

Thursday's meeting was the General Assembly's third High-Level meeting on Prevention and Control of NCDs.

Two previous meetings were held in 2011 and 2014, the second of which assessed the progress towards commitments pledged in addressing NCDs. 

Also spoke on Thursday were General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Participating member states are expected to adopt a fresh political declaration in line with targets set in the 2030 Agenda of the UN, including reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs by 2030.  

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