International Compact to address non-communicable diseases launched

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President Akufo Addos Sona
President Akufo Addos Sona

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has launched an international Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Compact 2022-2030 to accelerate progress towards the prevention and control of NCD’s.

The roadmap enjoins all countries to hasten and improve their responses to the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) target 3.4 that seeks to reduce by one-third premature mortality from NDC’s through prevention and treatment, and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing by 2030.

The Compact will galvanize action to close the implementation gap and fulfil five specific, time-bound obligations. Those commitments, which must be fulfilled by 2030, include saving the lives of some 50 million people from dying prematurely of NDC’s, protecting the lives of 1.7 million people living with NCD’s during humanitarian emergencies.

It would also involve the covering all people with quality essential health services and quality, safe, effective, affordable, and essential medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and health technology for the prevention and control of NCDs, covering all countries with comprehensive NCD surveillance and monitoring actions and engaging 1.7 million people living with NCD’s and mental health conditions to encourage governments to develop more ambitious national NCD responses.

The President launched the initiative at the maiden high-level International Strategic Dialogue on Non-Communicable Diseases held in Accra on Tuesday.

He also launched an informal International Group of Heads of State and Government to hasten the implementation of the commitments made in the UN Political Declarations of 2011, 2014 and 2018 High-Level Meetings of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

Ghana, Norway and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-hosted the Dialogue, which aimed among other things take decisive and comprehensive action on NCDs and achieving the target of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reduce untimely deaths from NCD’s that causes nearly five times as many deaths as communicable diseases worldwide.

The Dialogue brought together national and international actors and partners to exchange knowledge and ideas with key stakeholders from the private and public sectors, the academia, business world and international development experts.

According to the WHO, 21 million die annually from NDC’s, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Each year, more than 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 69 years die from an NCD; 85% of these “premature” deaths occur in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. Cardiovascular Diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by Cancers (9.3 million), respiratory diseases  (4.1 million), and Diabetes (1.5 million). These four groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths and share similar risk factors (Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets).

In an address read for him by the Presidential Advisor on Health, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, President Akufo-Addo noted that NCDs had changed the world, becoming the leading cause of death in many countries, emphasizing that the trend would worsen unless drastic action was taken.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had also exposed the link of non-communicable diseases with vulnerability to severe COVID illness, suggesting that that “must drive new approaches if we really want to make meaningful headway with NCDs Prevention and Control.”

The President observed that pandemic largely succeeded in diverting attention off other disease burdens that are equally affecting people and the society with immediate, and more importantly, grave future socio-economic consequences.

“I am talking about Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) otherwise known as the “Silent Killer “.

He said the situation in Ghana was not too different from that of any other Lower Middle-Income Country.

According to available data from the NCD Programme of the Ghana Health Service, on the average 1 out of every 5 clients who visited the out-patient department was diagnosed with one form of NCDs or the other. 16.7% of OPD attendees in 2017 were diagnosed with an NCD, rising to 19.7% in 2021. Reported counts of selected NCDs at the OPD in the last 5 years from 2017 hypertension, diabetes mellitus, road traffic accidents, asthma, stroke, depression, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

President Akufo-Addo told the meeting that the current burden of NDC’s demanded that “we need to as a people redouble our collective and individual efforts at reversing the trend which could threaten our national development”

He said his government through the Ministry of Health and its agencies in collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and with support from Development Partners have revised the National Non communicable Disease Policy (NNCDP, 2022) with its accompanying Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non communicable Diseases (2022-2026).

The Policy framework would provide the direction and guidance for all NCD interventions in the country.

The President pointed out Ghana had revised its Essential Health Service Package and aligned it to a Life course approach and the different components of health-Promotive, Preventive, Curative, Rehabilitative and Palliative services- for a responsive and high-quality health service delivery for all.

“Our goal as a nation, therefore, is to ensure that the burden of NCDs is reduced to the barest minimum to render it of little or no public health importance and as an obstacle to socio-economic development,” he told the meeting.

Ghana’s national fight against NCD’s, President Akufo-Addo indicated, would be concentrated on health promotion, physical inactivity, alcohol use and abuse, tobacco Use, diet and nutrition, immunizations, screening and early detection, clinical care, rehabilitation and palliative care.

He stated that special attention would also be given to cancers of all forms, injuries, Sickle Cell Disease, Mental Health, Oral Health and Eye Health.

The President said the country’s health system was being strengthened with the provision of the necessary client-centred infrastructure and logistics.

He made reference to the ambitious Agenda 111 project, that aims to provide 101 districts that do not have a hospital with one and build six regional hospitals for the six newly created regions and an extra regional hospital for the Western Region, to improve access to care and make Ghana, a centre of medical excellence and a preferred destination for medical tourism.

“Additionally, the government is also working hard at providing the necessary technologies and assistive systems for convenient access to and delivery of care, adopt innovative and sustainable ways of financing health, strengthen research and evidence generation and an empowered regulatory mechanism to ensure and assure quality of care for all people living in Ghana,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo called the attention of the gathering to the fact that sustaining an impactful fight against NCDs  would demand the redefining national development philosophies that aspired to achieve the highest possible quality of Life for its people.

He also harped on the need to activate a Multisectoral Governance Framework for broad determinants of Health as part of an integral part of national Planning.

“This will require leadership, coordinated multi-stakeholder engagement for health both at the government level and at the level of a wide range of actors, health-in-all policies and whole-of-government approaches across sectors and partnership, with relevant civil society and private sector entities.”

The President urged his counterparts to endeavour to fulfil the commitments made for the prevention and control of NCDs.

“We need to identify new ways to strengthen collaborations in resourcing, knowledge-sharing and technical assistance for bolder national NCD response… This response will accelerate the implementation of the commitments made in the UN Political Declarations of 2011, 2014 and 2018 High-Level Meetings of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

“Let us put our shoulders to the wheel and reverse the worrying trend of NCDs in our respective countries. This is achievable with the right political commitments, the right systems and structures, development partner support and citizens involvement.,” he added.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General underscored the need for countries to adopt cost effective actions to reduce the burden of NCD’s.

He said with the right strategic investments, countries facing the challenge of premature deaths from NCD’s “can change course.”

They could do this by focusing on a few areas including tobacco and alcohol control, reducing salt intake, increasing physical activity, management of hypertension, diabetes and vaccination against human papilloma virus.

“In fact more than seven million lives can be saved for 84 cents per person per year from now until 2030. This investment would realise more than 270 billion dollars in economic and societal benefits and avert nearly ten million heart attacks and strokes, all by 2030,” he stressed.

Dr Ghebreyesus noted that overcoming the challenge of NCD’s required technical, financial and political commitment.

He enjoined Heads of States and Governments to sign onto the NCD Compact and make the commitment needed to make global progress in the prevention and control of NCD’s.

Other dignitaries who spoke at the event including Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady of Congo, Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, and the Prime Minister of Norway who addressed the gathering virtually.

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