Noncommunicable Diseases and the SDGs – Actionable Steps Required to Prevent and Control the Surge
19 April 2022
The WHO convenes an international strategic dialogue on NCDs and the SDGs in an effort to forge ahead a common global agenda to prevent and control NCDs.
In 2007, Christopher was a young man in school with a dream. His mother, a single parent, was the breadwinner for the family. Life was ‘normal’ until he started experiencing some health problems. “I encountered difficulty walking for no reason,” he explained. Accessing the right health care was near impossible due to lack of funds. “The health centres I went to did not know what the problem was. It took nine years before I was finally diagnosed and now, I find myself in a wheel chair”.
Speaking at the National Roundtable on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) held in Accra, Ghana recently, Christopher said he was sharing his story and speaking “on behalf of many people out there who cannot afford the cost of health care and end up with debilitating diseases such as NCDs.
NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. The prevalence of these diseases and their risk factors have increased over time, killing 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally, and occurring mainly among people aged between 30 and 70 years. According to available data, NCD deaths are currently affecting people below 50 years, the productive population in many societies. Dr. Barnabas Kwame Yeboah, Director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Ministry of Health said this is alarming as it impacts negatively on the socio-economic fabric of every society.
The good thing is that most NCDs-related deaths can be avoided or delayed.
To forge ahead a common global agenda to prevent and control NCDs, and tackle the challenges that come with the increasing prevalence of NCDs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) convened an international strategic dialogue on NCDs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event, held in Accra, was co-hosted by the Governments of Ghana and Norway, and was attended by several heads of states, first ladies, the private sector, government and development partners and health practitioners across the world.
The in-person and virtual dialogue was preceded by a National Strategic Roundtable on NCDs under the theme prioritizing NCDs in the Context of Achieving Universal Health Coverage and SDGs through Partnership. Speakers after speakers at the national roundtable shared disturbing statistics and harrowing experiences of the situation in Ghana, where 86,000 people die every year from NCDs; where people like Christopher struggle to afford and access treatment and medicines for their conditions.
To show its leadership and preparedness to walk the talk to prevent and control NCDs, Ghana launched its Policy and Strategic Plan on NCDs (2022-2026), as well as the Norwegian Agency for Development Corporation (NORAD) Kente Project. Both Policy and Strategic Plan seek to strengthen the health system for NCD prevention and control, reduce exposure to NCD risk factors, strengthen multisectoral collaboration and ensure sustainable funding mechanisms for the control of NCDs. The Kente Project aims to strengthen the delivery of basic NCDs services in the country and will be implemented by the Ministry of Health.
The WHO Africa Regional Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti highlighted three key areas for the successful implementation of Ghana’s NCD Strategy and Plan - addressing determinants and NCD risk factors, ensuring multisectoral action and ensuring a people-centre approach towards NCDs prevention and control.
The Minister for Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said, the strategic implementation of these documents and projects will promote collective efforts and partnership in reversing the grim national epidemiological profile on NCDs for a better quality of life for all people living in the country.
The Ambassador of Norway to Ghana, H.E Ingrid Mollestad said the roundtable and dialogue provide high-level visibility to the urgency to address NCDs in the world. She commended Ghana for standing by Norway to ensure no one is left behind towards the achievement of the SDGs.
At the International Strategic Dialogue session, Heads of State underlined the severe impacts of NCDs. The President of Ghana H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo appealed to colleague Heads of State to collaborate in establishing the Presidential Group to find solutions to NCDs with a roadmap of universal health coverage and the SDGs.
H.E Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway said, investing in stronger health systems, service delivery and the prevention of NCDs make vulnerable populations more resilient to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus focused on the heavy impacts of NCDs on economies and thanked Ghana and Norway for their technical, financial and political commitment to overcoming NCDs.
At the end of the international dialogue, the International Group of Heads of State and Government on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (NCD Presidential Group) was launched to accelerate the implementation of the commitments included in the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and to provide strategic leadership for the prevention and control of NCDs by promoting greater policy coherence and coordination through whole-of-government and health-in-all-policies approaches and by engaging stakeholders in an appropriate, coordinated, comprehensive and integrated, bold whole-of-society action and response. The International Group of Heads of State and Government, which is a voluntary group, will meet annually on the occasion of the high-level general debate of the UN General Assembly. The President of Ghana will chair the first meeting of the Group, which will take place in September 2022 in New York on the occasion of the high-level General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly and annually thereafter. Also launched was an International NCD Compact 2022-2030 aimed at driving awareness and action towards achieving SDG 3.4 and 3.8.
These events and the relevant documents and outputs have no doubt raised the profile of the NCD agenda within the SDGs. They represent the collective commitment of the international community, including the leadership of Ghana, to do everything possible to prevent and control NCDs and give people like Christopher hope for a better future.
As reiterated by the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, what we need is “actionable steps to control and manage NCDs in Africa.”