World Heart Federation
Return to index


Professor Pekka Puska, President of the World Heart Federation attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos on 9 February 2009, with a record 40 heads of state or government as well as business and civil society leaders. To show how the global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which includes the leading cause of death cardiovascular disease, can be stopped and why prevention should be high on the global health agenda.

NCDs (heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes), are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths.  Out of the 35 million people who died from NCDs in 2005, half were under 70 and half were women.  This invisible epidemic is an under-appreciated cause of poverty as it affects people of working-age and hinders the economic development of many countries, as 80% of deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries.

“The best way to reduce premature deaths due to noncommunicable diseases is through prevention and control,” said Professor Puska.  “We have evidence and experience showing that countries can significantly halt, and even reverse the advance of these health epidemics if appropriate action is taken. The annual meeting in Davos provided a crucial platform to discuss the major challenges of the world today and we took the opportunity to discuss how to tackle the global burden of noncommunicable diseases alongside the financial crisis, climate change, development and values.”

Much of the international experience in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) is based on the pioneering work of the North Karelia Project and its extension across Finland which showed how annual CVD mortality rates among working-age people could be lowered by 80%.  The project integrated the prevention of NCDs that share the same risk factors (high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight and obesity and physical inactivity).                       

A new summary book on the North Karelia Project was launched during the World Economic Forum at Davos.  The project was led by Professor Puska and colleagues, and without doubt is the most compelling evidence so far on the enormous potential and benefits of prevention.  The previous summary book was published in 1995 and has now been updated with the latest follow-up data and discussion on national experiences and international perspectives.

Professor Puska took an active role during Davos, joining a workshop with Dr Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organization on preventing NCDs through workplace wellness programmes and chairing the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on chronic disease and malnutrition.  He also recorded his response to the Davos Debates broadcast on the YouTube Davos channel. The Debates focus on the key issues facing our world today and reaches a broad audience worldwide.  Professor Puska’s broadcasted view was why, especially during these economic times, businesses should invest in workplace wellness schemes and the prevention of noncommunicable diseases.

View the interview on You Tube >

top of the page