Health services are often oriented towards short-term treatment of disease rather than prevention and care for chronic conditions. In the case of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and other noncommunicable diseases, this approach misses important opportunities to improve public health in the long term. In collaboration with partners and Member States, WHO has therefore developed comprehensive strategies and guidelines to tackle the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases. Effective strategies need to simultaneously:
- focus on population-level health promotion and disease prevention
- target groups and individuals at high risk
- maximize population coverage with effective treatment and care
- tackle the wider determinants of health.
Population-level health promotion and disease prevention focuses to a large extent on the common risk factors for noncommunicable diseases. For example, the important role played by nutrition in preventing major threats such as cardiovascular disease was addressed in the European Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy (2007–2012) and the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (2008–2013). Specified areas of action include promoting the reformulation of mainstream food products to reduce the amount of salt, added sugar, saturated fat and trans fatty acids.
WHO/Europe is currently developing a comprehensive European Health Policy entitled ‘Health 2020’. Within this context, a specific European Action Plan 2012 – 2015 was developed for implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs (launched in 2006). The Action Plan lays out an integrated approach to the prevention and control of NCDs, specific actions to address the priority diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, and strategies to empower people living with these conditions to manage their own health. The final draft of the Action Plan was endorsed by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe at its sixty-first session in Baku, Azerbaijan, in September 2011.