More ways to save more lives for less money: World Health Assembly adopts more Best Buys to tackle noncommunicable diseases


The World Health Organization has expanded the ‘NCD best buys’ list. The updated list was approved at the 76th World Health Assembly, which will support governments in selecting lifesaving interventions and policies for the world’s biggest killers, non-communicable diseases. This gives countries of every income level support to improve the health of their citizens.
Interventions offered include:
Taxes and bans on advertising for tobacco and alcohol.
Reform policies for healthier food and drinks.
Promoting and supporting optimal breastfeeding practices.
The new list also includes secondary prevention for rheumatic fever, acute and long-term management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, several cancer control interventions related to cervical, breast, colorectal, liver and childhood cancer, and comprehensive cancer treatment for those living with HIV.
The updated best buys come with a whole menu of policy options and cost-effective interventions to help governments prioritize investments according to their specific country context. Investing in evidence-based policies is an investment in a healthy future.
Dr Bente Mikkelsen. Director NCD Department, World Health Organization
The latest revision was updated to reflect WHO’s recommendations, guidance, and scientific evidence on impact. The report is part of the NCDs Global Action Plan 2023-2030 and is an update from 2017, and is core to the Implementation Roadmap on NCDs. Each revision is based on new WHO normative and standard-setting products, new evidence and data to expand and update the interventions.

Strategies to Save Lives and Reduce Costs

The updated list continues to support that NCD prevention and control is a remarkable bargain that can save millions of lives and add millions of healthy life years.
These interventions can help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by one-third through avoidance and treatment and promoting mental health and well-being worldwide by 2030.
They also provide an opportunity to accelerate national action to prevent and control NCDs, reducing suffering and preventing deaths. They also pave the way for political commitment at the fourth High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the avoidance and Control of NCDs in 2025.
Everyone likes a bargain. Of course, many deals probably don’t save lives like that big-screen TV you MMA’d other people to get on Black Friday. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises 16 interventions that can save lives, reduce suffering, and are big-time bargains.
How about $230 billion in economic gains, seven million lives saved, 10 million heart attacks and strokes averted, and 50 million healthy life years gained from investing just an additional $0.84 per person per year? That would equate to about a $7 return for every dollar invested. All of these values are in U.S. Dollars. Still, they could be easily converted into European Euros, Japanese Yen, British Pounds, Chinese Yuan, Swiss Francs, Dogecoin, NFTs of recorded farts, or whatever your currency may be. The seven-to-one return would still hold.

All of this would stem from further investment into preventing and controlling NCDs. In this case, NCD stands for “noncommunicable disease” and not “nacho cheese dip” in snacking parlance or “needless character death” in video game parlance. A non-communicable disease is not typically passed from person to person via an infectious pathogen. Examples of NCDs include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and stroke.
You may have heard of these health conditions as collectively, they’ve become the leading killers of humans globally, claiming around 41 million lives each year. That’s about seven out of every ten deaths around the world. And many of these deaths are way too premature, with over 15 million folks between the ages of 30 to 69 years passing before their time. And as Kelly Henning, MD, Public Health Program Lead for Bloomberg Philanthropies, pointed out, “85% of such premature deaths are in lower and middle-income countries. The impact of NCDs on lower-income countries has been underrealized. The fact that this is underappreciated is one of the principles for [Bloomberg Philanthropies] to support this work.”

Addressing Health Inequalities in NCD Interventions

Even if you were an utterly selfish bleep who didn’t care about other people, you need to realize that what happens in the rest of the world is not like the time you did something unspeakable with cacti, cheese dip, and an anvil in Las Vegas. What happens in other countries doesn’t stay in other countries. Burdens in low and middle-income countries affect all people around the world. “Noncommunicable illness takes a terrible health and economic toll, mainly on countries that can least afford it,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs and Injuries, in a statement. “We know the avoidance measures that work best, and hopefully, this new describe leads more governments to take the smart, cost-effective actions that can help save millions of lives worldwide.”

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Olivia Wilson

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