Press releases

Broad support needed to fight rising noncommunicable diseases

Sixtieth Session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21–25 September 2009, Hong Kong (China)

Hong Kong (China), 24 September 2009— The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that strategies to mobilize support beyond the health sector will be needed to address some of the issues related to noncommunicable diseases.

Speaking at a meeting here of WHO's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said causes of noncommunicable diseases lay mostly outside the health sector.

Issues that need urgent attention include the marketing of food to children; limiting salt, sugar and fat in mass manufactured foods; restricting the availability and promotion of tobacco and alcohol, and urban design that promotes physical activity.

Chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, have overtaken communicable diseases as the leading health burden in the Western Pacific Region, accounting for almost 8 out of 10 deaths. Of the estimated 26 500 people in the Region who die every day from noncommunicable diseases, 20 000 come from developing countries.

High on the list of common risk factors are tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol. Up to 80% of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by eliminating these risk factors. WHO said government leadership and political commitment are essential to coordinate the necessary multisectoral responses to the problem.

WHO has proposed a global goal for the prevention and control of chronic noncommunicable diseases that calls for an additional 2% reduction in chronic disease death rates every year from 2005 to 2015. Achieving this goal will result in 36 million lives saved worldwide by 2015, 10 million of them in the Western Pacific Region.

In September last year, WHO's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific endorsed a regional action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. The action plan is focused on practical, cost-effective, and evidence-based interventions that countries and areas can adopt to achieve a reduction in noncommunicable disease risk factors.

For more information or interview request, please call:

Ms Marilu Lingad at Hong Kong mobile: (852) 6689 5763;
Philippine mobile: +63 908 8914532; e-mail:

Mr Peter Cordingley at Hong Kong mobile (852) 6349 2101:
Philippine mobile: +63 918 963 0224; email

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