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World Health Assembly, Geneva, May 2012

During the 65th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May, all 194 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States endorsed a historic target to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent by 2025. This success is the outcome of several months of work, beginning last year with a call from the cardiovascular disease (CVD) and NCD community for this to be an overarching global goal. This is a landmark decision by the world's highest global health deliberative body and marks a major milestone in the battle against NCDs. 

With new success comes new challenges

The decision to establish a global mortality reduction target for NCDs is an important milestone for the CVD community.  However, each new success brings new challenges. The target itself is voluntary, unenforceable, and for many countries, seemingly unattainable. Yet, cost-effective, feasible solutions exist and have been presented by the WHO as the best and most efficient way of reducing premature mortality. In anticipation, some United Nations agencies are already incorporating NCDs into their technical assistance plans, recognizing that countries will request the funds necessary to achieve this overall goal of reducing premature NCD mortality.

Advocacy remains a necessity

Despite this progress, advocacy will continue to be critical in the months and years ahead, particularly as the deadline approaches for a comprehensive NCD monitoring framework with targets and indicators.  Member States will meet again in October and when they do, it will be essential that they understand exactly what interventions exist and how these can be effectively implemented.  Additionally, as the Millennium Development Goals near their 2015 expiration date, discussions around the next set of development goals will ensue and NCD advocacy is needed throughout this process.

Cardiovascular disease must be addressed in order to reach 25 by 2025

With an existing target of 25 per cent reduction in premature mortality by 2025, the pathways to achieve this goal will need to truly account for the largest portion of the burden of disease – CVD.  While support has been noted for targets to address NCD and CVD risk factors as well as those to strengthen health systems and address access to essential medicines, the failure to include a target on multi-drug therapy is worrisome. Over a 10-year period, multi-drug therapy and counselling has the potential to avert nearly 18 million deaths. The emphasis on reducing risk factors and looking at the social determinants of health is key, however, the need for treatment, specifically of CVD, cannot be overshadowed. Targets will continue to be developed during an additional set of government and stakeholder consultations to take place through the end of October 2012. The window of opportunity to change the face of CVD forever is now and we call on the CVD community to advocate, on a country-level, for the adoption of strong evidence-based targets and push Member States to agree on these promptly to avert millions of deaths by 2025. 

For additional information
Read the press release on the global mortality reduction target >
Find full documentation of the World Health Assembly on the WHO website >
If you are a World Heart Federation member, get involved by joining our monthly global health agenda teleconferences.

Read more about the impact of the creation of a global target on NCDs in communications expert Jeff Meer’s recent blog post >

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