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Global Action on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)

NCDs – such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – are the leading cause of death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2015, of the 56.4 million deaths worldwide, approximately 40 million people (or 70%) were due to NCDs. 15 million people die prematurely – between the ages of 30 and 69 – each year from an NCD and more than 80% of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. A large proportion of NCDs are preventable, sharing modifiable risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.

The last decade has witnessed an increased global commitment to addressing NCDs and a prioritisation of NCDs within the broader development agenda. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly held its first High-Level Meeting (HLM) on NCDs, with 193 Member States adopting a Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (2011 Political Declaration). The 2011 Political Declaration highlighted that NCDs represent ‘one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century' and a ‘threat to the economies' of many Member States. A second HLM on NCDs was held in 2014 to review and assess progress in the prevention and control of NCDs since the first HLM, with a third HLM on NCDs to be held in 2018.

Entering into force on 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals arising out of the Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) aim to address the underlying, interconnected root causes of poverty by balancing the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development. In contrast to the preceding Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals include a number of goals and targets addressing the prevention and control of NCDs, highlighting the critical role of prevention and control of NCDs to the promotion of health and more broadly, to the attainment of sustainable development.

The global NCD framework comprises of normative documents, established bodies and reports.

Normative documents include:

  • The 2011 Political Declaration adopted following the landmark 2011 United Nations General Assembly HLM on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. In the 2011 Political Declaration, Member States committed to: reduce NCD risk factors and create health-promoting environments; strengthen national policies and health systems; strengthen international cooperation, including collaborative partnerships; promote research and development and strengthen monitoring and evaluation. They underlined that multisectoral action is essential; that responding to NCDs requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort. These commitments have shaped the development of a framework for global and national responses.
  • The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 (Global Action Plan) endorsed by the 66th World Health Assembly by resolution WHA66.10 of 27 May 2013. The Global Action Plan aims to ‘operationalize the commitments of the [2011] Political Declaration’. The Global Action Plan includes nine voluntary global targets including the goal of a 25% relative reduction in risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases as well as targets for behavioural risk factors (harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, salt/sodium intake and tobacco use). Appendix 3 of the Global Action Plan 'Best Buys' and other recommended interventions comprises of a menu of policy options and cost-effective and recommended interventions for Member States. An updated Appendix 3 was endorsed by the 70th World Health Assembly in May 2017.
  • The WHO Global Monitoring Framework on NCDs adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly includes 25 indicators and a set of nine voluntary global targets to track the implementation of the Global Action Plan through monitoring and reporting on the attainment of the targets.
  • The Outcome Document of the HLM Meeting of the General Assembly on the Comprehensive Review and Assessment of the Progress Achieved in the Prevention and Control of NCDs (Outcome Document of the Second HLM) adopted at the Second HLM of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of NCDs in July 2014. In the Outcome Document of the Second HLM, Member States reaffirmed the 2011 Political Declaration, which has ‘catalysed action and retains great potential for engendering sustainable improved health and human development outcomes’. They also reaffirmed the ‘primary role and responsibility of Governments in responding to the challenge of [NCDs]’ and the need for multisectoral approaches to health. Member States committed to address NCDs as a matter of priority in national development plans and give due consideration to addressing NCDs in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.

In addition to the above documents, in respect of cancer specifically:


Established bodies include:

Reports include:

  • The WHO NCDs Progress Monitor 2017 describes achievements and challenges faced by countries in fulfilling promises made since the first HLM on NCDs in 2011.

NCDs also fall within the broader global sustainable development framework:

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly by resolution 70/1 on 25 September 2015 and entered into force on 1 January 2016. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets including the following specifically relevant to NCDs:

Goal 2 end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture;

Target 2.1 by 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round;

Goal 3 ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages;

Target 3.4 by 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being;

Target 3.5 strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol;

Target 3.8 achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all;

Target 3.a strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate; and

Target 3.b support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.

  • The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis Ababa Action Agenda) endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly by resolution 69/313 of 27 July 2015. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda defines the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda specifically notes the ‘enormous burden that [NCDs] place on developed and developing countries’ and recognises that ‘price and tax measures on tobacco can be an effective and important means to reduce tobacco consumption and health-care costs, and represent a revenue stream for financing for development in many countries’.