Authorities call for global action against noncommunicable diseases

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published January 5, 2016

Key Takeaways

Cardiology and preventive medicine experts have issued a worldwide call to action to tackle the global problem of deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer—by reducing modifiable risk factors and adopting healthier lifestyle changes.

Most deaths from NCDs are preventable, the authors said in the policy statement, yet more than 36 million people worldwide die from NCDs each year, accounting for 63% of annual global deaths with an estimated global cost of $6.3 trillion. That amount is projected to increase to $13 trillion by 2030.

Simply but importantly stated, an ‘allhands on deck’ model is needed in theglobal HL [healthy lifestyle] campaign we must now embarkupon,” they wrote. “This policy encourages integrated action by all stakeholders to create the needed paradigm shift and achieve broad adoption of HL behaviors on a global scale.”

The policy statement, published simultaneously in Mayo Clinic Proceedings and the European Heart Journal, was jointly issued by the American Heart Association (AHA), the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), and the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM).

To create this paradigm shift, the authors propose “a novel nonhierarchical connectivity model” of organizations atevery level of society worldwide—individuals, families, companies, industry, professional organizations, government, and non-governmentalorganizations—should collaborate to create, implement, and sustain healthy lifestyle initiativesthat will reverse the current upward trajectory of NCDs.

Many NCDs share one or more common predisposing risk factors—all related to lifestyle to some degree. These include cigarette smoking, hypertension, hyperglycemia, dyslipidemia, obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

“In large part, prevention, control, or even reversal of the aforementioned modifiable risk factors are realized through leading a healthy lifestyle,” the authors wrote. “The challenge is how to initiate the global change, not toward increasing documentation of the scope of the problem but toward true action—creating, implementing, and sustaining HL initiatives that will result in positive, measurable changes in the previously defined poor health metrics.”

Many barriers must be overcome to achieve these goals, the authors acknowledged. To be successful, this new paradigm “must look beyond the traditional healthcare model (ie, hospital and clinical settings) to implement healthy lifestyle initiatives.” This means pursuing complementary strategies both within and outside the health system. “Successful delivery of HL interventions must be the result of synergistic relationships among public advocacy and policy, the research and clinical communities, and the public,” the authors wrote.

This requires individuals at each level who would assume responsibility. To that end, the authors propose building a network of “HL ambassadors” (HLAs) responsible for championing HL initiatives within their organization as well as collaborating with HLAs in other external stakeholder organizations; “even the family unit would benefit from a designated HLA,” the authors wrote.

The authors concluded with the hope that their policy statement will motivate individuals and groups at all levels of society to: 

  • Embrace their defined roles with respect to HL promotion and take action that will result in meaningful and positive change.
  • Officially designate one or more HLAs that have the organizational support needed to develop and implement HL initiatives.
  • Commit to ongoing communication among stakeholders that will result in collaborative HL initiatives.
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