Chronic illnesses: UN stands up to stop 41 million avoidable deaths per year

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UN Country Team in Turkey receives award for contribution to NCD Alliance

“Heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic Lyme disease, depression” – just some of the illnesses outlined by World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, who drove home the danger by asking delegates to stand up, when they heard the name of an illness that had killed someone they loved: One by one, every single person in the room, got to their feet.

That was the scene on Thursday, at UN Headquarters in New York, when around 500 people gathered to talk about the prevention and control of chronic illnesses – officially called non-communicable diseases, or NCDs.

Every year, 41 million people are killed prematurely by preventable chronic illnesses, which Dr. Ghebreyesus declared a “needless suffering, expense and death.” The figure represents 70 per cent of all deaths globally.

What’s more, NCDs affect mostly the poor. Of that 41 million total, 85 per cent are in developing countries.

“With an increasingly globalized world, longer life expectancy, a rapidly changing climate and increasing levels of urbanization, we are witnessing shifts – demographic and otherwise – that see the burden of NCDs rising in all nations,” said Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, who was speaking on behalf of UN chief António Guterres.

(WHO) chief Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesusproposed the creation of a “coalition of champions” that would spearhead a three- to five-year commitment for the quick and intense implementation of the WHO interventions, and showcase their potential impact.

Closing his remarks, the head of WHO said that three key things are needed in every country to “win the fight against NCDs” and achieve SDG Target 3.4: political commitment, domestic investment and universal health coverage so everyone can benefit from health care “without worrying about whether they can afford them.”

To help advocate for the prevention and control of chronic illnesses worldwide, WHO also announced on Thursday that it had renewed the appointment of billionaire philanthropist and former New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, as WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs and injuries, for another two years.

Award for UNCT in Turkey

UN Country Team in Turkey also received an award for outstanding contribution to NCD Alliance. On behalf of the UN Country Team in Turkey, the  UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey Ms. Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano received the award.