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Commonwealth to tackle non-communicable diseases in West Africa

22 June 2012
Meeting will explore action plans to deal with NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases

The Commonwealth will work with member countries in West Africa to improve the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases(NCDs), such as cancers and diabetes, which are projected to become the most common causes of death in the World Health Organization's Africa Region by 2030.

Five Commonwealth countries will take part in the workshop in The Gambia from 26 to 27 June 2012, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa.

The meeting will be opened by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare for The Gambia, Fatim Badjie.

The workshop aims to develop, support and harmonise the countries’ NCDs action plans, their monitoring and evaluation tools and explore their options for raising resources to deal with NCDs.

Head of the Secretariat’s Health Section, Magna Aidoo, said: “By working in partnership with regional and sub-regional organisations, the Health Section is operationalising a key component of the Commonwealth Secretariat Road Map on NCDs, thereby ensuring sustainable support for member countries in West Africa to fulfil international commitments to prevent and control NCDs.”

The main risk factors that contribute to the development of NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases, are tobacco use, unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity. NCDs place unprecedented strain on resource strapped low- and middle-income countries and therefore represent a significant challenge to development.

In April 2011, African health ministers adopted the Brazzaville Declaration, which stated that health systems should be strengthened to ensure, among others, evidence-based and cost-effective service delivery to deal with NCDs.

The 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCDs reaffirmed the negative impacts that NCDs have on social and economic development goals and highlighted the role of international co-operation in assisting member states’ efforts to generate an effective response.

The workshop will focus on aligning country policies and plans with the Brazzaville Declaration on NCDs and the UN Political Declaration on NCDs.

Commonwealth member countries attending the workshop are: Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Non-member Liberia will be sponsored by WAHO. Each country will be represented by three participants: Director of Disease Control, NCD Programme Manager and Health Promotion Programme Manager.

The workshop is one of several ways the Commonwealth is working to raise awareness of the growing global burden of NCDs.

It has brought together the media, government agencies, civil society and young people to promote dialogue on dealing with and tackling NCDs, and developed publications and videos to highlight the links between unhealthy lifestyle choices and developing life-threatening NCDs.

At the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in May 2012 ministers discussed how lessons learned from tackling communicable diseases - such as HIV and AIDS - can be applied to the growing threat of NCDs.

In September 2011 the Commonwealth held a side event on gender-responsive approaches to NCDs at the UN 2011 High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.