Noncommunicable diseases top of world’s agenda

Today and tomorrow (19–20 September 2011), high-level representatives of the 193 countries in the United Nations are meeting in New York, United States of America, to discuss the worldwide epidemic of noncommunicable diseases. These diseases – including cancer, heart disease and stroke, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes – account for over 86% of deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the WHO European Region.

Last week, before the United Nations meeting, health ministers in Europe endorsed WHO/Europe action plans on noncommunicable diseases and on the harmful use of alcohol. They contain a raft of highly affordable and effective measures to tackle the epidemic in the 53 countries in the European Region.

The United Nations meeting this week marks only the second time that the General Assembly has met to address a health issue (the other issue was AIDS). The aim is for countries to adopt a concise, action-oriented outcome document that will shape the global agendas for generations to come.