Prevention of NCD

Reducing the major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol – is the focus of WHO’s work to prevent deaths from NCDs.

NCDs – primarily heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes – are the world’s largest killers, with an estimated 38 million deaths annually. Of these deaths, 16 million are premature (under 70 years of age). If we reduce the global impact of risk factors, we can go a long way to reducing the number of deaths worldwide.

Prevention of NCDs is a growing issue: the burden of NCDs falls mainly on developing countries, where 82% of premature deaths from these diseases occur. Tackling the risk factors will therefore not only save lives; it will also provide a huge boost for the economic development of countries.

The department is split into four teams:

Tobacco Free Initiative

Conscious of the global tobacco epidemic’s massive toll of death, sickness and misery, and mindful of the need to raise the profile of its tobacco control work, WHO in July 1998 established the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI). TFI focuses international attention, resources and action on the global tobacco epidemic.

The tobacco control team works in three core areas: tobacco control economics, national capacity building, and surveillance and information systems for tobacco control.

The tobacco control economics team aim to demonstrate that tobacco control policies, in particular tobacco taxation, make good economic sense. They work with countries to strengthen their tobacco tax systems, carry out research, develop tools and manuals to support research and policy development, and survey tobacco taxation in countries.

Health Promotion

The Health Promotion team promotes action across sectors for health and health equity, the reduction of health risks and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Oral Health and School Health are two key work programmes of the team. The former aims to integrate oral health into NCD prevention and control, and the latter to intensify action for achieving NCD related health and education outcomes at the population level, in collaboration with key stakeholders within and beyond WHO.

Surveillance and Population-based Prevention

Surveillance and population-based prevention are fundamental to the mission to prevent deaths from NCDs. Population-based prevention focuses on broad policy, program and environmental interventions targeted at the general population more than just the high-risk individuals.

The major areas of focus are very cost-effective policy options contained within the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity & Health and the Global NCD action Plan 2013 – 2020. These include physical activity promotion, salt reduction, WHO recommendations on marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, and fiscal policies for diet amongst others.