Action pledged against non-communicable diseases

Kathmandu, September 5

With the aim of arresting the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases that kill 8.5 million people annually in the WHO Southeast Asia Region, member countries of the Region, including Nepal, today adopted the ‘Colombo Declaration’ calling for strengthening delivery of services for these diseases at the primary health care level.

“This is a critical moment for health systems and the people they serve across the Southeast Asia Region.

Non-communicable diseases are already taking an unacceptable toll on populations, with the burden projected to rise in the coming years,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO Southeast Asia, in a statement issued here today.

She said, “To avert this, services for these diseases must be made available at primary health care level, and high-risk populations must be provided opportunities to access screening and treatment.”

The statement said the members expressed serious concern about the burden of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

As part of the declaration, health ministers pledged to undertake targeted screening for early diagnosis, as well as to increase health guidance and counselling to promote healthy choices and self-care.

Ensuring appropriate treatment, robust follow-up, management of referrals and focusing on and expanding NCD services to high-risk population are key parts of the declaration, it said.

“This is an important opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the global goal of reducing NCD-related premature mortality by one-third by 2030, and to map out how we will get there.

Implementing effective policy solutions is vital to address the personal and social tragedy caused by NCDs, and their impact on economic development,” said Dr Singh in the statement.

To fund the primary health care approach for addressing NCDs, which is foundational to the Declaration, health ministers committed themselves to advocating for innovative financing methods, including dedicated taxation of health damaging commodities such as tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods and beverages.

This will reduce exposure to NCD risk factors and mobilise more resources for NCD prevention and control.

The ‘Colombo Declaration’ was adopted on the opening day of the 69th WHO Regional Committee Meeting, inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in the presence of Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General WHO, and health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the 11 member countries of the Region.