Working for better noncommunicable disease outcomes in Turkey: challenges and opportunities for health systems


A week long policy dialogue and training course is underway in Turkey, to take forward recommendations of a new WHO report assessing the health system response to NCD prevention and control.  Turkey was one of the first countries to undertake an assessment of the health system capacity to respond to NCD, using the assessment guide developed by WHO Regional Office for Europe.  The assessment was conducted in 2013 by WHO in partnership with the Ministry of Health in Turkey.  

The final report was launched in Ankara on 30th September 2014, at a high level event attended by over 100 national and provincial level health experts, along with representatives from non-health sectors.  

Dr Hans Kluge, Director for Health Systems and Public Health, noted that Turkey already has implemented a number of positive, innovative approaches to control NCDs – some of which have been considered worldwide as a model.  In particular, Turkey’s tobacco control program and the development of a nationwide family medicine system stand out as global good practice.  Turkey could see even further gains by focusing on strengthening the role of family medicine in NCD prevention and management, scaling up population interventions on diet and physical activity, and considering equity in all NCD interventions and monitoring.  Turkey has also identified that strong governance and coordination, both within the health sector and beyond, is necessary to improve NCD outcomes.

Prof Dr Seçil Ozkan, President of Public Health Institute of Turkey, underlined that preventing and controlling noncommunicable diseases is the major challenge facing Turkey today.  She emphasized that this issue has the full support of the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Health, and that together they are working on a programme to scale up multi-sectoral action on health.  This high level political commitment was welcomed by the WHO team.  As Dr Kluge said, reducing the NCD burden across the whole population “is both good public health and good economics”.

The report findings are now being actively debated through a week-long policy dialogue and training course, facilitated by a multi-divisional WHO team, to discuss how these recommendations could be addressed to improve NCD outcomes in Turkey.  This will include working on drafting an integrated, multisectoral plan for NCD prevention and control in Turkey.