June 4, 2018
U.S. Government Statement on Launch of Final Report by the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases
Upon the release of the final report of the World Health Organization Independent High-level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases, called “Time to Deliver,” Commissioner Eric Hargan, HHS Deputy Secretary, released the following statement:
“Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have long been a burden on the lives of people in developed countries like the United States, and a drain on government resources. But today, they increasingly impact lower- and middle-income countries as well. Fifteen million people ages 30 to 70 die annually from NCDs, according to a recent U.N. General Assembly report. Seven million of those are from developing and middle-income countries, which is a relatively new phenomenon.
We can’t wish away the NCDs challenge. Addressing NCDs requires identifying and pursuing comprehensive, cost-effective, evidence-based, and multi-sectoral strategies and applying them in a way that engages individuals and entire communities. That is why I agreed to be part of the WHO Independent High-level Commission on NCDs. The Commission’s goal was to offer bold, new, and multifaceted recommendations that have not entered the international NCD discussion, and that is why I welcome this report. Though compromise was necessary in finalizing the language, I believe the report offers recommendations that can truly help accelerate global action against NCDs.
The report reflects a new spirit of partnership and collaboration with the private sector, which will improve the health and productivity of all. Work in this spirit will make a far greater impact than dismissing this critical sector, as has traditionally been the case with many in the global health community, who often prefer to “go it alone” in addressing public health issues. The global health community will benefit from innovative public-private partnerships to prevent and mitigate diseases, including NCDs. Private entities and governments both want healthy and productive workers, customers and taxpayers. To that end, the report states, and we agree, that governments should engage constructively with the private sector and that public-private partnerships can be an important tool to contribute to effective NCD responses.
We must do all we can to treat those now afflicted with NCDs, but the best way to meet this challenge is to ensure they never occur in the first place. One of the best places to focus on prevention is to work with adolescents to help create healthy lifestyle habits. Thus, the report states that governments should convene marketing experts and behavioral economists to develop public health campaigns designed to educate different populations on how best to prevent and mitigate the risk factors and harms of NCDs. The private sector can, and should, be included in such efforts.
The report encourages governments to harness emerging technologies for NCD action. We have learned in the United States the value of using technology to produce cost-savings and health benefits. Simple telecommunications technologies can help connect providers and patients, even in our most rural areas. In U.S. communities with few doctors per capita and a high burden of chronic disease, telehealth has led to improved disease management and health education. Technology can be used to educate communities about healthy lifestyles, coordinate training among providers, and provide treatment to hard-to-reach individuals in rural and urban settings.
Strengthening health infrastructure and primary care, ensuring effective engagement with those people living with behavioral and mental health conditions, and bringing together different levels of governments and civil society, are also worthy of praise and attention and must be part of any solution.
Any lasting solution to the problem of NCDs will require collaboration with the private sector. No government or advocacy group can match the private sector’s capacity to reach targeted populations. We look forward, with the international health community, to partnering appropriately with the private sector as part of the solution to achieve our goals of reducing the prevalence of NCDs.
Overall, this report offers a list of recommendations governments can use now to combat the rise of NCDs. As the title of the report says, it is truly time to deliver bold actions if we are going reduce premature mortality from NCDs. As a representative of the United States, I stand ready to do my part and look forward to the next phase of work on the High-level Commission.”
The report is available here: http://www.who.int/ncds/management/time-to-deliver/en/