10 September 2020
WHO Reports Non-Communicable Diseases Heighten Risk of Severe COVID-19
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

NCDs account for seven in ten deaths worldwide.

The WHO Director-General emphasized that people with NCDs are “among the most likely to become severely ill and die from the new coronovirus”.

A study in The Lancet finds that the world is not on track to meet SDG target 3.4 to reduce premature mortality from NCDs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on governments everywhere to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), emphasizing that people with NCDs are “among the most likely to become severely ill and die” from COVID-19. In other NCD news, a July 2020 ECOSOC resolution outlined Member States’ requests to the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.

The four most common NCDs are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. According to the WHO, NCDs account for seven in ten deaths worldwide, and people with NCDs have risk factors that make them increasingly vulnerable to “COVID-19, infection, and the likelihood of worse outcomes.” Studies from several countries have highlighted that individuals with diabetes and hypertension are more likely to be among those with COVID-19 fatalities. A recent study found that coronavirus-related disruptions in healthcare treatments have impacted people with NCDs; among those with cancer, for example, 55% of people have experienced disrupted health services.

In his briefing on 4 September, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO is “encouraged by the progress we have made against this new virus.” He said national unity and global solidarity can help to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Tedros thanked countries and economies engaged in efforts to develop and produce a coronavirus vaccine and ensure its equitable distribution, noting that 78 high and medium-performing economies have pledged to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator project.

In July 2020, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted a resolution on prevention and control of NCDs, titled ‘Coordination, programme and other questions: prevention and control of non-communicable diseases’ (E/RES/2020/22). By the text, the Council:

  • recognizes that “many countries still face significant challenges” in implementing commitments related to NCDs and that the human and economic cost of NCDs “contributes to poverty and inequities”;
  • calls on the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of NCDs to continue to work to support Member States in line with its strategy for 2019-2021, paying particular attention to Member States’ needs during COVID-19 response and recovery;
  • requests the Task Force to further support Member States in their efforts to address the burden of NCDs, including through: maintaining essential health care services and their timely delivery; promoting access to safe, effective, quality and affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, essential medicines, vaccines and other health technologies; and strengthening health systems and supply chain management; 
  • requests the Task Force to strengthen its capacity to provide technical and policy advice to governments; and
  • and requests the UN Secretary-General to report on progress achieved at ECOSOC’s 2021 session.

[WHO Director-General statement] [UN News story on WHO statement] [ECOSOC Resolution on NCDs (E/RES/2020/22)

related events