Increasing information on noncommunicable disease risk factors in the Region

WHO/Enrique Gerardo

Training on procedures for assessment of physical characteristics for determining overweight/obesity status/risk, including hip and height and weight (components of body mass index) measurements.

In general, noncommunicable disease (NCD) mortality and morbidity data can be obtained from vital registration systems in WHO European Member States. However, information on risk factors is less frequently available, prompting for alternative data sources to provide this information. The WHO STEPSwise survey approach is a cost-effective means to strengthen NCD risk factors and health care management monitoring and surveillance. The WHO STEPwise approach to Surveillance (STEPS) is a simple, standardized method for collecting, analysing and disseminating data in WHO Member States. By using the same standardized questions and protocols, all countries can use STEPS information not only for monitoring within-country trends, but also for making comparisons across countries.

Extending implementation of the STEPs survey to more countries has been made possible in the framework of the WHO NCD project based in Moscow, Russian Federation. 4 countries in the Region – Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – implemented STEPS surveys during 2013–2014. Furthermore, in 2015, a second wave of STEPS surveys implementation plans were developed in 5 additional European Member States with technical support from the WHO.

In June 2016, the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, through its National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, was the first to undertake survey training and initiating data collection in the field, aiming to determine the prevalence of multiple behavioural, physical and biochemical NCD risk factors in a representative sample of 18–69-year-old adult population in the country. The Armenian Ministry of Health is following suit with training in mid-August, aiming to complete the field work by November 2016. In addition, Belarus and Tajikistan plan to initiate training and implementation in October and finalize by the end of the year.

In turn, Kazakhstan initiated in early 2015 subnational assessments using similar STEPS methods and instruments. Plans for implementation of surveys in additional countries or in those who conducted them in 2013 will continue in the coming years. With these activities, population coverage of risk factors information in the European Region is increasing significantly, allowing prevention and control progress monitoring, while meeting the WHO and United Nations commitments on improved NCD surveillance.

Response to a global need for monitoring progress

In response to NCDs emerging as a major public health concern, and to scale up efforts to improve the situation and trends in Member States, WHO and the United Nations developed the:

  • WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs;
  • United Nations Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs; and
  • Outcome document of the 2014 high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the comprehensive review and assessment of the progress achieved in the prevention and control of NCDs.

To monitor progress on the achievements globally and nationally, the NCD Global Monitoring Framework, the European Health 2020 policy framework and the Sustainable Development Goals proposed a number of targets and indicators. However, to address monitoring needs, countries require reliable and up-to-date information on NCD mortality and morbidity impacts, the prevalence of their risk factors and the capacities and responses of the health systems for the prevention and control of NCD.

Strengthening NCD monitoring and surveillance in Member States is a key objective of WHO in the European Region. Technical support in these areas is provided through the NCD project in Moscow, which received a grant from the Russian Government, and the Regional Office in Copenhagen.