Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for 74% of all deaths worldwide. More than three-quarters of all NCD deaths, and 86% of the 17 million people who died prematurely, or before reaching 70 years of age, occur in low- and middle-income countries.
NCDs share four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
The epidemic of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems. The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century.
WHO’s mission is to provide leadership and the evidence base for international action on surveillance, prevention and control of NCDs. Urgent government action is needed to meet global targets to reduce the burden of NCDs.
One of the most important ways of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is to control the risk factors that lead to their development. These include reducing the use of tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol, maintaining an active lifestyle and consuming a healthy diet. Actions towards these goals are cost-effective ways for countries to reduce the number of NCD deaths. Tackling these risk factors can not only save lives, but also provide a huge economic boost for countries.
Beyond prevention, management of NCDs is critical. This includes detection, screening and treatment of the diseases, as well as palliative care for those in need. The vast majority of premature deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, where universal health coverage or access to health care services is often limited. The development and promotion of universal health coverage is therefore essential in tackling NCDs and working to reduce the number of preventable global deaths.
Surveillance of NCDs is another vital action for providing the information needed for policy and programme development for NCD prevention and control. Tracking and reporting on NCD related global targets and indicators to understand progress in NCD prevention and control are key activities. Accurate data from countries are vital to reverse the global rise in death and disability from NCDs, to support evidence-based decision making, and to help monitor and evaluate the progress being made.
The WHO Department of Noncommunicable Diseases is responsible for global leadership, coordination, guidance and technical support to reduce premature mortality and morbidity from NCDs. In 2019, the World Health Assembly extended the WHO Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013–2020 to 2030. It called for the development of an Implementation Roadmap 2023–2030 to accelerate progress on preventing and controlling NCDs. The Implementation Roadmap supports actions to achieve a set of 9 global targets with the greatest impact towards prevention and management of NCDs.
Noncommunicable diseases are recognized as a major global challenge in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda sets the target of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030. WHO plays a key leadership role in the coordination and promotion of the global fight against NCDs and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals target 3.4.