Turkey launches plan to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases

Turkey is facing a growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Not only do they cause 86% of all deaths in the country, but – most worryingly – the probability of dying prematurely (before the age of 70 years) from NCDs in Turkey is 18%. This means that nearly 1 in every 5 adults dies before they should.

To strengthen the prevention and control of NCDs, the Turkish Ministry of Health developed the Multisectoral action plan of Turkey for noncommunicable diseases 2017–2025. The Ministry based the action plan on resolutions and recommendations from the United Nations and WHO, and aligned it with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The action plan aims to improve the health sector’s response to NCDs, facilitate multisectoral cooperation, ensure the implementation of health policy by all institutions and develop a common perspective on the issue.

Tackling the burden of NCDs

Today nearly half (47%) of all deaths in Turkey are due to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. At the same time, levels of daily salt intake in the population are 3 times higher than the 5 g recommended by WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; as a result, just under a quarter of the population has hypertension. In addition, 42% of men are tobacco smokers, and nearly 1 in 3 adults are obese.

To help change this situation, the action plan includes national targets and mechanisms in line with the WHO Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013–2020 and the Action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the WHO European Region.

Working with nongovernmental organizations and academics, the Turkish Government adapted 8 of the 9 global targets set by WHO to the Turkish context, and developed 25 country-specific indicators to monitor progress.

These 8 targets are:

  • a 25% relative reduction in overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases;
  • a halt in the rise in alcohol consumption;
  • a 10% reduction in the prevalence of insufficient physical activity;
  • a 30% relative reduction in the mean population intake of salt/sodium;
  • a 30% relative reduction in the prevalence of current tobacco use in people aged 15 years and over;
  • a 20% reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure;
  • a halt in the rise in diabetes and obesity; and
  • at least a 50% improvement in cardiovascular drug therapy and counselling (including for people who have had heart attacks and/or strokes).

Coordinated by the Public Health Institute of the Ministry of Health of Turkey and developed with the participation of related ministries, authorities, universities and civil society, the action plan adopts a holistic and high-level multidisciplinary approach. It sets the priority objectives of ensuring effective implementation and the sustainability of prevention and protection activities.

In addition to aligning with WHO’s global and regional NCD action plans, Turkey’s action plan aligns with United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/2 on NCDs, and 4 time-bound commitments agreed upon by Member States at the General Assembly’s 2014 high-level meeting to review and assess the 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs.