WHO European High-level Conference on Noncommunicable Diseases: Time to deliver – meeting NCD targets to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in Europe

Ahmet Hallyyev

9–10 April 2019, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

2018 – a milestone year for prevention and management of NCDs

The year 2018 witnessed incredible global mobilization for the prevention and management of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Member States, WHO and partners expanded their commitments and the scope of their work to achieve ambitious targets.

The third United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs and a series of high-level international meetings and conferences on the health system response to NCDs, primary health care, global mental health and air pollution will serve as context and background for the WHO European High-level Conference on Noncommunicable Diseases. The event will take place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on 9–10 April 2019.

From global commitment to local action on NCDs

While European Member States have made significant progress in addressing the global NCD agenda, now is the time to review advances and decide on next steps for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and reducing inequities across the Region.

More progress is needed in areas such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, obesity, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, hypertension and diabetes. In April 2019, only 11 years will remain for achieving the SDG targets and potentially saving millions of lives.

The Conference will follow up on the commitments made at the United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs, and seek to help countries with implementation. This includes strengthening the integration of mental health and air pollution in the NCD agenda.

The Conference will reinforce the urgency of action and the spiralling consequences of inaction, and will focus on how global commitments and experiences can be actioned at the country level.

Mental health and clean air: reframing the scope of NCD actions

The Action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs in the WHO European Region 2016–2025 includes interventions to promote mental health and clean air. It is supported by specific frameworks for addressing 4 main NCD risk factors: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

The United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs confirmed the scope at the global level to include mental health conditions as a fifth disease area (in addition to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes) and air pollution as a fifth NCD risk factor.

The Conference in Ashgabat will be a decisive opportunity to discuss how to convert global and regional commitments into actions at the country level across sectors, with multiple stakeholders and in different settings.