Fifty-eighth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 10-14 September 2007, Jeju, Republic of Korea
Jeju, Republic of Korea, 14 September 2007—A significant annual reduction in deaths from noncommunicable diseases is not going to happen unless countries and areas adopt a "whole-of-society" approach to noncommunicable diseases prevention and control, the World Health Organization said.
Addressing the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO Regional Director Shigeru Omi said that in order to achieve the goal, "all sectors, from government to private enterprises, civil society and communities, will have to work together."
In 2005, WHO proposed a global goal of reducing the projected trend of chronic disease death rates by 2% each year until 2015. High on the list of chronic diseases are cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and obesity. Approximately 17 million people die prematurely each year as a result of the global epidemic of chronic diseases, which is the leading cause of death in the world today. The vast majority of cases are caused by a small number of known and preventable risk factors. Three of the most important are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use.
Pacific health ministers had called for local solutions to strengthen efforts to combat noncommunicable diseases. As part of the "whole-of-society" approach, they urged national leaders to be role models for healthy lifestyles, including encouraging the population to eat nutritious local foods. The health ministers also called for better strategies to help reduce noncommunicable diseases. Strengthening health services that are under pressure from the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases is also part of the "whole-of-society" approach. In line with this, regional health leaders will meet in Singapore in November to identify solutions.
"Unless national interventions are urgently taken to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases, 36 million people will die of these diseases by 2015, nearly half of them before they turn 70," Dr Omi warned.
The Regional Committee for the Western Pacific met in Jeju to review WHO's work in the Region and to provide guidance on further work.