2 March 2015
Hon. Minister of Health Tuitama Dr. Leao Talalelei Tuitama invited to attend First Session of the World Health Organization Working Group on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Samoa’s Hon. Minister of Health Tuitama Dr. Leao Talalelei Tuitama accepted the World Health Organization’s invitation to participate in a first meeting of the Global Coordination Mechanism/Non Communicable Disease (GCM/NCD) Working Group on “how to realise government’s commitments to engage with the private sector for the prevention and control of NCDs.”
This Working Group is tasked with providing recommendations to the WHO Director General on methods of encouraging Member Countries and Non State Actors to realize the commitment made by Heads of State and Governments at the 2011 Political Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs which called on the private sector to increase its contribution for the prevention and control of NCDs in the following areas:
- Reducing the impact of marketing unhealthy goods and non-alcoholic beverages to children;
- Producing and promoting more food products consistent with a healthy diet;
- Reducing the use of salt in the food industry;
- Promoting and creating an enabling environment for healthy behaviours among workers; and
- Improving access to affordable NCD medicines and technologies.
The membership of the Working Group is drawn from a WHO roster of experts nominated by Member States and appointed by the WHO Director General. Afioga Tuitama, who is also a medical physician by profession, was selected alongside other experts from Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Brazil, Russia, Lao PDR, Tunisia, Barbados, Nigeria, Canada, South Africa, Norway and Thailand.
This first face to face meeting was held at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland from 18 – 19 February 2015.
Globally, Governments cannot carry this NCD health burden alone. It is important for governments to engage with the private sector for the prevention and control of NCDs. The progress review report by the UN General Assembly in July 2014 showed that progress of the five areas listed have been modest at best, and any notable advances have been from wealthier, high-income countries.
According to the WHO, an estimated 36 million of the 57 million global deaths are due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, including about 9 million deaths before the age of 60, and that nearly 80 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Individuals, families and communities should continuously be made aware that these prominent NCDs are linked to common risk factors, namely through common-place behaviour such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity, therefore it’s possible that these NCDs can be prevented and controlled!
In order for member countries to take action, the Working Group discussed five policy briefs covering these five areas identified in the UN General Assembly Political Declaration in 2011 that was prepared and published by the WHO NCD Secretariat in December 2014 through comments by 6 February 2015.
Samoa, together with other members of the Working Group, presented experiences within each of the five areas, discussed key issues and emerging themes and identified other relevant information and evidence to inform the development of recommendations for the WHO Director General as a way forward to engage the private sector for the prevention and control of NCDs. These included the involvement of local champions and local leadership; government institutions, academic institutions and NGOs being open to partnering with a shared vision, purpose and responsibility. The need to engage with the private sector entities is critical as they are key players in global health as providers of goods and services that can have important effects on health. The private sector also includes a wide range of actors including the food and beverage, media, sports, and advertising industries.
A concise report of this first meeting by the Working Group is being prepared by the Secretariat and will be made available to all member states via the WHO website. Also, at this first meeting, the Working Group discussed in detail the need to invite parties from the private sector to attend all or part of subsequent meetings to provide information and/or participate in an interactive discussions with the Working Group so they are engaged throughout on how best to improve their positive contributions to and limit their negative effects on NCDs.
In the meantime, the Working Group members will continue to work closely and interact with the Secretariat through teleconferences, webcasting in order to further discuss the challenges of operationalizing these policy brief directions and recommendations prior to its next face-to-face meetings. Two more face-to-face meetings are proposed to be held at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and they are tentatively scheduled for June and September of this year and possibly December if required.