Health leaders from across the Americas have agreed a pledge to cut the number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases by 25% by the year 2025.
The action plan has been agreed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This is a regional body of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the world’s oldest international public health organization, working with all the countries of the Americas to improve health and quality of life.
PAHO says the leading causes of death in the Americas, excluding infections, are preventable. The organization says a common thread runs through the four leading non-communicable diseases: their risks are raised by the same factors.
Common risk factors:
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excess alcohol.
Member countries from across the Americas have pledged to give priority to non-communicable diseases in their state health and development agendas. PAHO says they have agreed to implement “the necessary policies and programs” to achieve the health organization’s goals.
The following list of objectives has been set for all the health authorities signed up to the Pan American Health Organization’s plan:
- Involve sectors beyond health to promote the prevention of non-communicable diseases, including agriculture, trade, education, labor, finance, the environment, transport and urban development
- Provide universal access to health services for non-communicable diseases
- Reduce tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke by 30% by the year 2025
- Reduce the impact on children of marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Promote active lifestyles through policies that reduce physical inactivity in adults and adolescents
- Improve access to essential medicines and technologies for detecting, diagnosing, treating and controlling non-communicable diseases and for rehabilitation and palliative care
- Improve surveillance of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors and strengthen research to improve interventions and evaluation of policies and programs.
Member states pledged to work beyond health institutions to “promote dialogue and coordination with other sectors and institutions with a view to ensuring integrated implementation of interventions.” The strategies were approved on October 3rd by the 52nd directing council of PAHO, following a week of deliberations.
Health statistics published by PAHO show that there are 242,000 deaths from diabetes every year across the Americas and that 13% of all deaths are due to ischemic heart diseases. In 2010, nearly three quarters of all deaths had non-communicable causes and 58% of people dying were aged under 70 years.
The Pan American Health Organization adds:
“In the Americas, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease are responsible for three out of four deaths, claiming some 4.45 million lives every year.
More than a third (34%) of these deaths are considered premature because they occur in people ages 30 to 69.”
PAHO says the poorest people bear the greatest burden of these preventable diseases – 30% of cardiovascular premature deaths happen among the poorest 20%, compared with only 13% among the wealthiest 20%.
The World Health Organization’s 2011 report on non-communicable diseases, profiling all the countries of the world, adds to this picture, showing that low-income and low-to-middle-income countries have the highest proportion of deaths under the age of 60 years from largely preventable non-communicable diseases, accounting for 41% of deaths – three times the proportion in high-income countries.
The member states of the pan-American organization have also agreed to move toward universal health coverage, announcing some specific measures after the PAHO meeting – promising to reduce the discrimination of lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexual (LGBT) people, to reduce the “alarming number” of cases of chronic kidney disease of “non-traditional causes” in agricultural communities in Central America, and to improve care in remote and difficult-to-reach areas.
Cuba and Nicaragua were the first of the Americas to join the US in the Pan American Health Organization, becoming members on June 26th and December 17th, 1925, respectively.
Since then, 32 other countries have joined, most recently the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis on September 24th, 1984, a country with a population of just over 50,000 people living mainly on the coast.