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Commonwealth video campaign targets NCDs risk in young people

4 August 2011
“It is imperative that NCD prevention programmes target youth since lifestyle habits are often adopted at this stage of life and frequently remain well into adulthood,” Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith

A new video campaign highlighting the risks posed by young people’s lifestyle choices and their links to developing life-threatening non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in adulthood, was launched on 2 August 2011 at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London.

NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases kill an estimated 35 million people each year globally, making them the leading cause of death in almost every country in the world.

The film ‘Non-Communicable Diseases - The World’s Biggest Killer’ asks governments to address the main risk factors that contribute to the development of NCDs - tobacco use, unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity. As a consequence of rapidly changing environmental and societal factors, children and young people are growing up in societies where the determinants of NCDs are rising.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith said the video is part of the Secretariat’s accelerated response to NCDs with the focus on prevention by encouraging young people to adopt healthier lifestyle choices.

“It is imperative that NCD prevention programmes target youth since lifestyle habits are often adopted at this stage of life and frequently remain well into adulthood,” he stressed.

80 per cent of deaths from NCDs are within low and middle income countries. They will cause 75% of deaths by 2030.

The film has been developed by the Secretariat’s health, youth affairs and communications divisions and the UK Young Professional Chronic Disease Network.

It follows the lives of three young people living in London, UK; Nairobi, Kenya; and New Delhi, India, and their behaviour towards unhealthy food, alcohol and smoking. It also features messages from Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of the Pan American Health Organization.

Scientist Jane Ferguson of the World Health Organization spoke at the launch about some of the tactics used to prevent young people from adopting unhealthy lifestyles.

She added that an estimated annual 52 million deaths are predicted by 2030 from NCDs and 80 per cent of these deaths are preventable.

“We have an opportunity in the next 10 years, with this current cohort of adolescents we are dealing with and the next, to cut down that number,” she said.

As part of the launch the video has been uploaded to a number of health websites and will be distributed among the Secretariat’s partner organisations as a resource to gain support.

The Secretariat’s Health Adviser, Vanessa Baugh, said work is underway with the Caribbean Broadcasting Union to play the video on regional television stations.

The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting was ‘NCDs – A Priority for the Commonwealth’

“It is our hope that the film is used as a tool to demonstrate that young people are uniquely impacted by the NCD epidemic, that they require particular attention by policy-makers and they should be empowered to make responsible choices,” she explained.


The Director in charge of Health at the Secretariat, Dr Sylvia Anie, said the video’s launch would help build awareness ahead of this September’s UN High-Level Summit on NCDs in New York.

“At the end of the day we want a film that will move people to change. The response to NCDs must be multi-sectoral and integrated to the responses from other sectors. Furthermore targeted messaging to a diverse audience is integral to enhanced awareness and subsequent behaviour change in the youth,” she stated.

Henry Charles, Interim Director of the Youth Affairs Division at the Secretariat, said any credible strategy must have young people as its major point of focus.

“Young people must become an integral part of the solution. It is not about developing your campaign somewhere else and then targeting them, it’s about involving them as part of the solution.”