Scope and purpose

Consultation on the Action Plan for Implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases

Copenhagen, Denmark, 17–18 March 2011

Four groups of chronic diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases) and their risk factors (tobacco use, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity) account for the vast majority of the burden of disease in the fiftythree Member States of the European Region of WHO. These diseases are embedded in a web of chronic conditions (for instance: mental health disorders, injuries, and musculoskeletal diseases) that share related causes and require common solutions. The burden is inequitably distributed between and within countries, with significant social gradients in exposure, outcomes and consequences being observed.

These diseases, their societal risks and consequences, and the related solutions have been addressed by a Global and a Regional Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases adopted by the World Health Assembly and the Regional Committee in 2000 and 2006 respectively. This year, the First Global Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and the Control of Noncommunicable Diseases will be held in Moscow in April, and in September, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a High Level Meeting on the links between this epidemic and human development.

At the same time as this Action Plan is being developed, the European Region is also developing a series of over-arching strategic documents. A European Health Policy (Health2020) is being developed, providing an umbrella for all public health action, based on awareness of, and a response to, the social determinants of health. A European Public Health Framework for Action is also being written. It provides a structure of essential public health operations and functions within which the responses to NCDs may be located.

Within this larger context, a consultation of European Member States is being held on the 17th and 18th March 2011 in Copenhagen. It will bring together national focal points and other stakeholders to develop a five-year operational plan for the implementation of the European Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

The consultation is being held with three main objectives:

  1. To review the responses to noncommunicable diseases across the European Region;
  2. To agree on a practical set of actions that can be taken by Member States, by WHO and by partners to address the epidemic in the next five years to 2016;
  3. To contribute to the development of a European position on NCDs and development in advance of the Global Ministerial Conference and the United Nations High Level Meeting.

The operational plan that emerges from this meeting will encompass responses to the epidemic of NCDs in Europe that share a number of characteristics:

  • They will be linked to the BASIC VALUES AND PRINCIPLES of the European Health Policy (Health2020) and the European Public Health Framework for Action, both of which are being developed in parallel to this plan;
  • The solutions will be INTERSECTORAL in nature. The causes of the epidemic lie in systemic risks in European society, risks that range from the way cities are planned and governed, to the way food is produced and delivered, and to the way goods are priced and marketed. A proper solution must look at what is achievable by working outside the health sector, seeking common action and co-benefits with other sectors.
  • The solutions will be INTEGRATED. The cluster of chronic conditions considered by the Regional Strategy requires a common set of solutions. A common approach to prevention will focus on key strategies such as appropriate legislation, regulation, and fiscal policies. A common approach to management of these diseases will focus on strengthened health systems that provide universal access to chronic patient-centred care, with empowered patients and communities.
  • The solutions will be concerned with EQUITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. The causes of NCDs are inequitably distributed. The burden of NCDs, in turn, further impoverishes populations already disadvantaged in society. The responses must address the root causes of these social gradients.
  • The solutions will be EVIDENCE-INFORMED AND FEASIBLE. The action plan has a five-year time span. It will need to deliver on a short list of discrete responses to which Member States and WHO can commit and deliver. The selection of actions will need to deliver on what has been shown to work (e.g. the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) and to assess what is likely to work across the diverse range of economic and social development of Europe.
  • The solutions will BALANCE a range of short term “quick wins” with longer term capacity and partnership building efforts. Tangible, short-term targets should energise and drive the response to build up political momentum while at the same time laying down the structures to permit a sustainable response that involves the whole of society: government at all levels, civil society and the private sector.
  • The solutions will be APPROPRIATE TO DIFFERENT RESOURCE SCENARIOS. The actions will need to recognize that the epidemic of NCDs is both a cause of and a consequence of failed development. The epidemic itself is at different levels of maturity. The responses will thus need to be calibrated to fit within different scenarios of burden, resource base, and capacity to respond.

The participants at this meeting will report on the state of the NCD responses in their countries. They will consider and select a group of actions that meet the above criteria. They will also make proposals on how their experience, their needs and their plans can inform the position that their country can take in the Global Ministerial Conference in Moscow and the United Nations High Level Meeting in New York in order to advance the Regional and global agenda on NCDs and development.