MANILA, 23 October 2013 – The major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases—are responsible for 80% of all deaths in the Western Pacific Region. To arrest this silent epidemic, the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific has endorsed the Western Pacific Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2014–2020).
“Noncommunicable diseases have received a high priority at global, regional and national levels,” says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo.
“I congratulate Member States for strengthened national responses to the NCD epidemic as well as their active participation in the development of the global and regional action plans.”
In the Region, deaths and illnesses due to NCDs occur against a backdrop of globalization, rapid economic growth, unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation, climate change and growing inequities within countries. Changing lifestyles and increased purchasing power in some populations have led to a reduction in breastfeeding, fewer meals prepared at home and increasing consumption of fast food, tobacco and alcohol.
Moreover, the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods are influencing the diets of children. In addition, greater use of motorized transport and the lack of space for walking and biking have reduced physical activity for many people and worsened air quality. All of these factors point towards a dramatic increase in an already high NCD burden.
The main risk factors for NCDs—tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol—are avoidable. The prevalence of these risk factors in the Region is high and still rising in many countries. There are an estimated 430 million smokers in the Western Pacific Region, or about one third of the world’s smokers. Pacific island countries and areas have a very high prevalence of obesity, with obesity rates as high as 75% among adults. All countries in the Region report a prevalence of over 25% for high blood pressure.
The regional action plan draws upon global commitments contained in the Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. The political declaration urges countries to integrate NCD prevention and control into their national health planning process and their development agenda by promoting, establishing or strengthening multisectoral national policies and plans for the prevention and control of NCDs.
The regional action plan is aligned with the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2013–2020), endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2013, thus ensuring consistency between global and regional efforts.
The regional action plan utilizes the global commitments as a platform to enable countries in the Western Pacific Region to develop a strategic and evidence-based NCD response. The regional action plan takes into account the global response while recognizing the unique features and context of the NCD epidemic in Asia and the Pacific.