24/02/2010 Global forum addresses solutions to prevent premature deaths
24 FEBRUARY 2010 | GENEVA -- The first Global Forum of the Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) marks the first time WHO has convened key stakeholder groups to address the large-scale and increasing global health and development burden posed by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). More than 100 people representing all stakeholder groups and geographic regions, including HRH Princess Haya Al Hussein of Jordan, and HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Duchess of Brabant, and high ranking policy makers and officials are meeting to address the NCD gap in the development agenda and the mobilization of support.
Noncommunicable diseases account for 60% of global deaths
Noncommunicable diseases, including heart disease and strokes, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, account for 60% of all global deaths. This represents 35 million deaths worldwide out of 58.7 million of which the majority occur in low- and middle-income countries (28.1 million). In developing countries alone, an estimated 8 million NCD deaths per year are premature (below 60 years old) and could be potentially prevented. WHO forecasts that between 2006 and 2015, deaths from noncommunicable diseases will increase worldwide by 17%, with the greatest increase projected for the African region (24%) followed by the Eastern Mediterranean region (23%).
"Diseases once associated with abundance are now heavily concentrated in poor and disadvantaged groups. Developing countries have the greatest vulnerability and the least resilience," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. "Many developing countries are where affluent countries were some decades ago. As we know, many of these countries have mounted successful campaigns against heart disease and cancers. The sharing of these experiences is another compelling reason for intersectoral collaboration through an initiative such as NCDnet."
Network to focus on prevention and control
NCDnet is a voluntary collaborative network comprised of Member States, donors, philanthropic foundations, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector. It aims to increase focus on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries through collective advocacy, increase resource availability and promote effective stakeholder global and regional action with the aim to strengthen national capacity.
Proven solutions now exist to prevent premature deaths from preventable noncommunicable diseases by implementing interventions to reduce tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol.
It is also key to strengthen health systems to enable them to respond more efficiently to the health needs of people. NCDs impose a heavy burden on people living in low- and middle-income countries. The cost of health care and treatment can push people below the poverty line very quickly.
"We have affordable and workable solutions for all countries available today to start to halt the trend," said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. "Low- and middle-income countries are asking for our urgent support. We also know that changing people's life-style habits is a long-term process but this is all the more reason why these should be addressed now".
"Participants will address the NCD gap in the health and development agenda, the limited aid and expertise available and will accelerate the implementation of the NCD Action Plan in developing countries," said Dr Alwan.
NCDs pose a significant economic and financial risk
Julian Schweitzer, Acting Vice President of the World Bank, stressed the economic impact of NCDs at both the macroeconomic and household levels in developing countries. "NCDs are the most significant cause of illness and death among working-age populations. About three-quarters of the NCD disability burden in low- and middle-income countries occurs among those aged between 15 and 69 years."
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said "In terms of global macroeconomic impact, our analysis shows that noncommunicable diseases pose a significant economic and financial risk both to advanced and developing economies. The World Economic Forum is committed to ensuring that key partners engage in a multi-stakeholder approach to address this challenge. Our annual meeting in Davos in January demonstrated strong commitment from global leaders for immediate and collaborative action."
"Earmarking a 2% tax on tobacco and alcohol products over the past few years has reaped real dividends," said Dr Supreda Adulyanon, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. "In 2008, for example, this led to 80 million USD which have gone directly to health promotion programmes in Thailand."
The NCDnet Global Forum follows the recent meeting of Member States convened by CARICOM (Caribbean Community of States) in New York on 5 February at which delegates announced their intention to introduce a United Nations General Assembly resolution that would encourage UN agencies to work together to prevent and control NCDs. The CARICOM meeting also echoed WHO's recommendations for an all-society response as the NCD health problem has wide-reaching socioeconomic ramifications.
For more information contact:
Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
Telephone: +41 22 791 45 81
Mobile: +41 79 724 78 15
13/01/2010 WHO spearheads health response to earthquake in Haiti
13 JANUARY 2010 | GENEVA -- The severe earthquake that struck Haiti and the Dominican Republic has inflicted large-scale damage, including on hospitals and health facilities, and large numbers of casualties are feared.
Immediate health priorities include:
search and rescue of survivors trapped underneath rubble;
treatment of people with major trauma injuries;
preventing the infection of wounds;
provision of clean water and sanitation; and
ensuring breast-feeding is continued.
Control of communicable diseases, such as diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections, will be another major concern in coming days.
WHO is working with local authorities, United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners to respond to the emergency. More specifically, WHO is supporting the Haitian government to best coordinate international health assistance to the country. WHO is also collecting data on the health impact of the earthquake to disseminate to other humanitarian aid providers.
In addition, WHO is deploying a 12-member team of health and logistics experts. The WHO experts being sent include specialists in mass casualty management, coordination of emergency health response and the management of dead bodies.
UN buildings, including the WHO premises, have suffered damage in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which struck on 12 January. The main force of the earthquake was felt 17 kilometres south-west of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti is a country that has already suffered from years of humanitarian crisis and natural disasters, including a series of hurricanes that battered the country in 2008.
For more information:
Health Action in Crises
World Health Organization
Telephone: +41 22 791 3462
Mobile: +41 79 475 5546
24/11/2009 New HIV infections reduced by 17%
24 NOVEMBER 2009 | GENEVA | SHANGHAI -- According to new data in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years. Since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa is approximately 15% lower, which is about 400 000 fewer infections in 2008. In East Asia HIV incidence has declined by nearly 25% and in South and South East Asia by 10% in the same time period. In Eastern Europe, after a dramatic increase in new infections among injecting drug users, the epidemic has leveled off considerably. However, in some countries there are signs that HIV incidence is rising again.
The report, released today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic - HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.
"The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention," said Michel Sidib?, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved."
In this first double issue, the UNAIDS Outlook report further explores how "modes of transmission" studies are changing the approach of HIV prevention efforts. The new magazine-style report looks at new ideas and ways to use the data collected in the companion epidemiological report.
More people are living with HIV than ever before
Data from the AIDS Epidemic Update also show that at 33.4 million, [31.1 million-35.8 million] there are more people living with HIV than ever before as people are living longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy and population growth. However the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10% over the past five years as more people gained to access to the life saving treatment. UNAIDS and WHO estimate that since the availability of effective treatment in 1996, some 2.9 million lives have been saved.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director- General of WHO said: "International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results. We cannot let this momentum wane. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives."
Antiretroviral therapy has also made a significant impact in preventing new infections in children as more HIV-positive mothers gain access to treatment preventing them from transmitting the virus to their children. Around 200 000 new infections among children have been prevented since 2001.
In Botswana, where treatment coverage is 80%, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by over 50% over the past five years and the number of children newly orphaned is also coming down as parents are living longer.
AIDS out of isolation and integrated with other health and social welfare services
One of the significant findings of the report is that the impact of the AIDS response is high where HIV prevention and treatment programmes have been integrated with other health and social welfare services. Early evidence shows that HIV may have a significant impact on maternal mortality. Research models using South African data estimate that about 50 000 maternal deaths were associated with HIV in 2008.
"AIDS isolation must end," said Mr Sidib?. "Already research models are showing that HIV may have a significant impact on maternal mortality. Half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV. This tells us that we must work for a unified health approach bringing maternal and child health and HIV programmes as well as tuberculosis programmes together to work to achieve their common goal."
The AIDS epidemic is evolving; HIV prevention programmes are not rapidly adjusting
The double report also shows that the face of the epidemic is changing and that prevention efforts are not keeping pace with this shift. For example the epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia once characterized by injecting drug use is now spreading to the sexual partners of people who inject drugs. Similarly in parts of Asia an epidemic once characterized by transmission through sex work and injecting drug use is now increasingly affecting heterosexual couples.
Data show that few HIV prevention programmes exist for people over 25, married couples or people in stable relationships, widowers and divorcees. These are the same groups in which HIV prevalence has been found to be high in many sub-Saharan countries. For example in Swaziland people over the age of 25 accounted for more than two thirds of adult infections yet very few HIV prevention programmes are designed for older people.
Funding for HIV prevention has become the smallest percentage of the HIV budgets of many countries. For example in Swaziland, just 17% of the country's total budget for AIDS was spent on prevention despite a national HIV prevalence rate of 26%. In Ghana, the prevention budget was cut in 2007 by 43% from 2005 levels.
Building capacity: new social networking site for global AIDS community
Building on the need to maximize results and to better connect the 33.4 million people living with HIV and the millions of people who are part of the AIDS response, UNAIDS has launched AIDSspace.org. This social networking site is open to the community and is free.
AIDSspace.org aims to expand informal and established networks to include more people interested in HIV to maximize resources for a stronger AIDS response. The premise behind AIDSspace is simple: if hundreds of millions of people can connect on some of the most popular social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube) to connect, exchange ideas, post and share HIV-related content, they can do the same for HIV related content - including key policies, case studies, multimedia materials, conference posters, reports and other essential resources. Users can also find and post jobs and reviews on service providers on AIDSspace.org.
For more information please contact:
Telephone: +41 22 791 1697
Telephone: +41 22 791 2511
n/a WHO calls for action beyond the health sector to improve the health of girls and women
9 NOVEMBER 2009 | GENEVA -- Despite considerable progress in the past decades, societies continue to fail to meet the health care needs of women at key moments of their lives, particularly in their adolescent years and in older age, a WHO report has found.
Launching the report, entitled Women and health: today's evidence tomorrow's agenda, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan called for urgent action both within the health sector and beyond to improve the health and lives of girls and women around the world, from birth to older age.
"If women are denied a chance to develop their full human potential, including their potential to lead healthier and at least somewhat happier lives, is society as a whole really healthy? What does this say about the state of social progress in the 21st century?" asked Dr Chan.
Women provide the bulk of health care, but rarely receive the care they need
Worldwide, women provide the bulk of health care - whether in the home, the community or the health system, yet health care continues to fail to address the specific needs and challenges of women throughout their lives.
Up to 80% of all health care and 90% of care for HIV/AIDS-related illness is provided in the home - almost always by women. Yet more often than not, they go unsupported, unrecognized and unremunerated in this essential role.
When it comes to meeting women's health care needs, some services, such as care during pregnancy, are more likely to be in place than others such as mental health, sexual violence and screening and treatment for cervical cancer.
However, in many countries, sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women and ignore the needs of unmarried women and adolescents. Few services cater for other marginalized groups of women such as sex workers, intravenous drug users, ethnic minorities and rural women.
"It's time to pay girls and women back, to make sure that they get the care and support they need to enjoy a fundamental human right at every moment of their lives, that is their right to health," said Dr Chan.
Women live longer than men but these extra years are not always healthy
HIV, pregnancy-related conditions and tuberculosis continue to be major killers of women aged 15 to 45 globally. However, as women age, noncommunicable diseases become major causes of death and disability, particularly after the age of 45 years.
Globally, heart attacks and stroke, often thought to be "male" problems, are the two leading killers of women. Women often show different symptoms from men, which contributes to under diagnosis of heart disease in women. They also tend to develop heart disease later in life than men.
Because women tend to live on average six to eight years longer than men, they represent a growing proportion of all older people. Societies need to prepare now to deal with the health problems and costs associated with older age and anticipate the major social changes in the organization of work, family and social support.
Despite some biological advantages, women's health suffers from their lower socio-economic status
Lack of access to education, decision-making positions and income may limit women's ability to protect their own health and that of their families. Though major differences exist in women's health across regions, countries and socio-economic class, women and girls face similar challenges, in particular discrimination, violence and poverty, which increase their risk of ill-health.
For example, in the case of HIV/AIDS the risk posed by a biological difference is compounded in cultures that limit women's knowledge about HIV and their ability to negotiate safer sex.
"We will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as second-class citizens in so many parts of the world," Dr Chan said. "In so many societies, men exercise political, social and economic control. The health sector has to be concerned. These unequal power relations translate into unequal access to health care and unequal control over health resources," she added.
Policy change and action is needed within the health sector and beyond
The report seeks to identify key areas for reform, both within and outside the health sector. These include identifying mechanisms to build strong leadership with the full participation of women's organizations, strengthening health systems to better meet women's needs throughout their lives, leveraging changes in public policy to address how social and economic determinants of health adversely impact women, and building a knowledge base that would allow a better tracking of progress.
Strategies to improve women's health must also take full account of gender inequality and address the specific socioeconomic and cultural barriers that prevent women from protecting and improving their health, the report points out.
For further information, please contact:
Telephone: +41 22 791 3941
Telephone: +41 22 791 3228
Mobile: +41 79 475 5556
Telephone: +41 22 791 3982
Mobile: +41 79 516 3136
27/10/2009 Tackling global health risks prevents premature deaths
27 OCTOBER 2009 | GENEVA -- Global life expectancy could be increased by nearly five years by addressing five factors affecting health - childhood underweight, unsafe sex, alcohol use, lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure, according to a report published by WHO today.
These are responsible for one-quarter of the 60 million deaths estimated to occur annually.
Global health risks describes 24 factors affecting health. These are mixture of environmental, behavioural and physiological factors, such as air pollution, tobacco use and poor nutrition.
The report also draws attention to the combined effect of multiple risk factors. Many deaths and diseases are caused by more than one risk factor and may be prevented by reducing any of the risk factors responsible for them.
"More than a third of the global child deaths can be attributed to a few nutritional risk factors such as childhood underweight, inadequate breastfeeding and zinc deficiency," says Colin Mathers, Coordinator for Mortality and Burden of Disease at WHO.
Eight risk factors alone account for over 75% of cases of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. These are alcohol consumption, high blood glucose, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index, high cholesterol, low fruit and vegetable intake and physical inactivity. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries.
"Understanding the relative importance of health risk factors helps governments to figure out which health policies they want to pursue, " says Mathers. "In many countries there is a complex mix of risk factors. Countries can combine this type of evidence along with information about policies and their costs to decide how to set their health agenda."
nine environmental and behavioural risks, together with seven infectious causes, are responsible for 45% of cancer deaths worldwide;
worldwide, overweight and obesity causes more deaths than underweight;
unhealthy and unsafe environments cause one in four child deaths worldwide;
71% of lung cancer deaths are caused by tobacco smoking;
in low-income countries, easily remedied nutritional deficiencies prevent one in 38 newborns from reaching the age of five;
10 leading preventable risks decrease life expectancy by nearly seven years globally and by more than 10 years for the region of Africa.
The report uses extensive data from WHO and other scientific studies. It estimates the effects of 24 risks to health on deaths, diseases and injuries by region, age, sex and country income for the year 2004. These are the most recent data available due to the time required for collection and analysis.
For further information on the Global health risks report contact:
Dr Colin Mathers
Health Statistics and Informatics
Telephone: +41 22 791 4529
Dr Gretchen Stevens
Health Statistics and Informatics
Telephone: +41 22 791 1031
Health Statistics and Informatics
Telephone: +41 22 791 1855
Telephone: +41 22 791 1498
Mobile: +41 79 206 1087
Telephone: +41 22 791 1897
Mobile: +41 79 206 1403