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Norway Launches International Development Strategy on Combating Non-Communicable Diseases

‘We cannot eradicate poverty by 2030 without better health. Norway’s new strategy to combat non-communicable diseases in developing countries makes a key contribution to those goals,’ says Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.

The Norwegian Government today launches a milestone “Better Health, Better Lives” strategy to combat deadly non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as part of its international development assistance. NCDs cause some 70% of deaths worldwide and are now a major, growing cause of illness and premature death in low- and middle income countries.

Norway is the first country to develop such a strategy for combating this large global health threat as part of development cooperation. Prevention and control of NCDs currently receives only about 1% of health-related development assistance.  These diseases often develop into chronic conditions, resulting in disastrously high health care treatment costs for individuals and health systems that are already lacking in resources.

‘Worldwide, 41 million people die each year as a result of respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental disorders and other non-communicable diseases. This cannot continue. Therefore, Norway will triple its assistance to fight NCDs, allocating over 200 million NOK to these agendas for 2020. This is just the start, we will step up the funding towards 2024,’ said Ulstein.

Minister of Health, Bent Høie, notes that the strategy builds upon WHO’s normative work on NCDs, and particularly the 16 WHO-recommended “Best Buys” – interventions for the prevention and control of NCDs.

‘If these were implemented, over 8 million lives could be saved annually by 2030; there would also be a total savings of $US 7 trillion in low- and middle-income countries over the next 15 years,’ he said, citing WHO data.

The new strategy has three main points of focus: strengthening primary health care; prevention targeting leading NCD risk factors such as air pollution, tobacco and harmful alcohol consumption and unhealthy diets; and strengthening standards and guidelines, as well as health data and information systems.

‘It has been documented that taxation and regulation of products that are harmful to health can be used to effectively discourage consumption of health-harmful products such as tobacco and alcohol.  I am happy that the strategy is so clear on this point. Norway will support countries requesting assistance to implement such measures,’ said the Minister of Health. Similarly, pollution taxes and regulations can encourage shifts to clean energy and transport, reducing health-harmful air pollution.

The strategy will support the SDG 3 targets of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030 (SDG 3.4); Universal Health Coverage (SDG 3.8); as well as targets for reducing deaths from air pollution; strengthening tobacco control and preventing harmful use of alcohol.

‘Non-communicable diseases are the leading killers of our time. As is so often the case, the world’s poorest bear the heaviest burden. The risks of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 from a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer or asthma are 4 times higher in most countries of Africa than in Norway,’ said WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a videotaped message broadcast at the «Gathering for the Future of Global Health» on the occasion of today’s strategy launch in Oslo.

‘Thank you for your leadership in this important area. WHO is delighted to accept your invitation to be a co-sponsor of this strategy,’ said Dr. Tedros.

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