WHA Opening Ceremony
Lindsay Gill

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WHO outlook is chronic

Over 3000 delegates from more than 194 countries descended on Geneva yesterday for the opening of the WHO’s Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly (WHA).

Regarded as the most effective organisation for influencing global health policy, the WHO Assembly began with an address from WHO General-Director Dr Margaret Chan, which stressed health as an essential foundation for development and highlighted the emerging scourge of chronic disease.

Dr Chan said, “Health contributes to and benefits from sustainable development and is a measurable indicator of the success of all other development policies. Investing in the health of people is a smart strategy for poverty alleviation. This calls for inclusion of non-communicable diseases…”

If left untreated, non-communicable chronic illness, which includes heart disease, obesity and cancer, is estimated to cost the world approximately $47 trillion during the next 15 years and will place unmanageable pressure on public healthcare systems.

Following the address, discussion immediately turned to the draft global action plan for the prevention of non-communicable disease, now the biggest cause of premature death worldwide, as the Twittersphere erupted with propositions for tackling the crisis.

Encapsulating the problem, which cannot be solved by a vaccine or drug programme, Tim France, freelance writer for the WHO, tweeted, “Governments can’t control lifestyle diseases the way they control infectious epidemics.”

Whilst further tweets from Huffington Post writer Jason Tetro, asked whether non-communicable disease should be considered in the same way as infectious disease, “NCDs ARE infectious disease but the ‘pathogens’ aren’t always microbes…Thoughts?”

Last night Sir George Alleyne, former Special Envoy for the United Nations said, “Health has to be a precondition for achieving a sustainable future” and it is clear that strong partnerships must be forged not only with those private industries, such as food, that can help to manage populations exposure to risk factors, but a bigger effort must be made to raise public awareness and empower individuals to take responsibility for their health.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Lindsay Gill .

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