Commonwealth intensifies efforts to reduce NCD risk behaviours in children, adolescents and youth

02 December 2023
Press release
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, and First Ladies at the launch of the Commonwealth Youth-Focused Guiding Framework

The Commonwealth Secretariat has launched a new framework that offers governments a practical guide to addressing the rising burden of cancers and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The new Commonwealth Youth-Focused Guiding Framework was launched by Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, on 16 November 2023 at a hybrid event as part of London Global Cancer Week 2023.

The launch was attended by first ladies, health ministers, high commissioners, medical professionals, high-level representatives from international organisations, policymakers and youth leaders.

The framework aims to tackle two major NCD risk factors- physical inactivity and unhealthy diets,- and will work collaboratively with young people by harnessing their underutilised potential as agents of change to fulfil the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting commitment to developing a multisectoral approach for addressing the rising burden of NCDs.

The panel at the London Global Cancer Week event

With the Commonwealth’s burden of NCDs continuing to increase, including the greater risk of premature deaths among the youth population, the framework was welcomed as a bold and vital step. Speakers and participants also committed to building on existing relationships, networks and collaborations to accelerate the implementation of the framework using an integrated approach for a healthier Commonwealth.

A practical youth-led guide

Opening the event at Marlborough House in London, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said:

“The Commonwealth has been hand-in-hand with London Global Cancer Week since the beginning because we share an unshakable commitment to better detect, treat and prevent NCDs and cancers around the world.”  

She continued:

“Today, we launch our new Commonwealth youth-focused guiding framework, which will support our member countries in their fight to tackle the root causes of NCDs. It is a day filled with hope, strengthened commitment and a shared purpose.

The framework will be focused on young people as both beneficiaries and leaders of this work.”  

During the meeting, other speakers emphasised the need for greater collaboration to address the underlying factors driving NCDs. In her keynote address, the First Lady of Zanzibar, HE Mariam Mwyinyi, said:

“We require multisectoral collaboration to address the underlying socio-economic factors driving NCD challenges. Nowhere is this clearer than in countries which are especially vulnerable to economic and commercial determinants of health. We must, therefore, engage with lawmakers, civil society, professional associations and people with lived experience to enact policies to help prevent NCDs.

The Commonwealth family is well-positioned to provide leadership and to act as a global and regional catalyst for pulling together major stakeholders involved in the fight against NCDs including cancers.”

Implementation measures

Speakers emphasised the importance of a targeted, holistic approach to reduce the burden of NCD risk factors and underscored the importance of physical activity for cancer prevention, management and rehabilitation.

Paralympic Champion, GB Rowing Team and breast cancer survivor Erin Kennedy MBE shared a personal account of the positive benefits of an active lifestyle before her diagnosis, during chemotherapy and upon her return to training.

Other speakers at the event included the Minister of State in the Ministry of Health, Government of Rwanda, Honourable Minister Dr Yvan Butera, and the Director of Non-Communicable Diseases, World Health Organization Dr Bente Mikkelson.

They both underscored the importance of the framework in addressing NCD risk factors and reaffirmed their commitment in supporting the Commonwealth to promote and implement the guiding framework.

Including young and vulnerable voices

One of the ten principles of the new framework spotlights the involvement of young people and communities as crucial for designing and implementing effective NCD interventions. Their engagement, perspectives, knowledge and skills contribute to the design and implementation of tailored interventions that are both culturally sensitive and contextually relevant. 

2023 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, Maya Kirti Nanan

The 2023 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, Maya Kirti Nanan, received the framework on behalf of young people around the world. In her address, she noted the need for more research and greater consideration to people in vulnerable communities. She advocated for the inclusion of young vulnerable persons in the global conversations about healthy diets.  She said:

“We don’t have the statistics to guide us for the population of persons living with disabilities. This is an area we need to work on. At Rahul’s Clubhouse, the autism centre I set up in Trinidad, we have an average of 75 autistic children accessing intervention services every week. Many of them are at risk of NCDs later in life because they do not eat properly.”

Express your interest in adopting the Commonwealth Youth-Focussed Guiding Framework

Media contact

  • Ijeoma Onyeator  Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

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