UN Secretary General Urges Action on Non-Communicable Diseases

Posted September 19th, 2011 at 1:07 pm (UTC-5)
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday the anticipated increase in the number of deaths by non-communicable diseases over the next decade is “alarming.” But he said the ways of lowering the death rates from disease like diabetes, cancer, lung and heart disease are simple.

In his speech, the secretary-general warned world leaders that the “prognosis is grim” as he said the number of deaths from non-communicable diseases is expected to increase by 17 percent over the next decade. Leaders are gathered for a two-day meeting at the United Nations in New York City to discuss how governments can curb the 36 million deaths each year from preventable and treatable diseases.

Mr. Ban urged the food, media, marketing and advertising industries to act responsibly. He also called on alcohol companies to encourage moderation. And he said everyone can work to end the use of tobacco.

He said the keys to lowering these numbers also include increasing exercise, improving nutrition and expanding screening for these diseases.

World Health Organization Chief Margaret Chan told leaders that the global shift in eating processed foods, which are high in salt, trans fat and sugar, has led to a disturbing expansion in people's weight — a factor that has contributed to the rise of non-communicable diseases.

Chan also said a World Economic Forum and Harvard University study estimates non-communicable diseases could cost the global economy more than $30 trillion over the next 20 years. These illnesses threaten development, as they push people out of work and into poverty and as members of the workforce die from them.

In a declaration adopted by the 193-member General Assembly, the body calls for urgent action for prevention and for governments to strengthen their national policies and health systems to meet the challenges.