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66th WHA: key achievements for public health nutrition

The sixty-sixth session of the World Health Assembly took place on 20–28 May 2013, at the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The event happens annually, and is attended by delegations from all WHO member states. It is the moment where countries gather to inform WHO’s work for the upcoming year, including review and approval of the proposed programme budget.

Here is a summary of the key achievements of this years’ WHA for public health nutrition:

NCDs
Member States unanimously adopted and supported an omnibus resolution on NCDs, which fulfils commitments made in the UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, and signals consensus on the three pillars of the global NCD architecture (action, accountability and coordination). The key decisions in the resolution are:

  • To endorse the WHO Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013–2020;
  • To adopt the Global

    Monitoring Framework on NCDs

    ;

  • To develop a global coordination mechanism by the end of 2013 to coordinate activities and promote engagement of all actors in the global NCD response.

WHO Assistant-Director General, Dr. Oleg Chestnov stated that “the adoption of the global action plan moves the process from the political to the practical realm”. With the adoption of the global monitoring framework and the ambitious 9 global targets and 25 indicators, for the first time all governments are accountable for progress on NCDs. And the global coordination mechanism will provide a vehicle to convene and mobilise relevant actors (including multilateral and bilateral agencies, governments, NGOs, and the private sector where appropriate) to accelerate progress on NCDs.

The resolution encompasses other notable recommendations, including:

  • to develop the terms of reference for the global coordination mechanism through informal consultations with Member States, UN agencies, NGOs and relevant private sector, followed by a formal Member State consultation in November 2013;
  • to develop action plan indicators to inform progress reporting on NCDs and are capable of application across the six objectives of the action plan, to be submitted to WHA in 2014, through the Executive Board for approval;
  • to update Appendix 3 of the global action plan in light of new scientific evidence, to be considered by the World Health Assembly through the Executive Board; (the corrigendum of Appendix 3 is available here)
  • to report on progress in implementing the action plan in 2016, 2018 and 2021, and on progress achieved in attaining the 9 global targets by these years;
  • to provide technical support to Member States to implement the global action plan, establish or strengthen national surveillance, and engage/cooperate with non-health government sectors and non-state actors;
  • to recommend the formalisation of a United Nations Task Force on NCDs in July 2013 to intensify a joint UN response and to galvanise global support for NCDs.

WHA3In addition, a joint statement on the WHO Global Action Plan on NCDs was submitted to WHA on behalf of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), with the co-signatories of World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF International), Consumers International (CI), World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA), World Action on Salt & Health (WASH) and the UK Health Forum. The full statement can be accessed here.

The statement was read during the NCD Agenda item discussion by Bryan Collinsworth, Executive Director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicine and had very positive reception.

Another statement read during WHA was the NCD Alliance Statement on Agenda Item 13: Noncommunicable diseases, by the Union for International Cancer Control. The statement called member states to secure accountability for the millions of people at risk or living with NCDs worldwide; to determine action for the next phase of the global NCD response; and to agree a mechanism that will drive global multisectoral action on NCDs.

Read more at the NCD Alliance website.

Salt
The approval of the omnibus resolution on NCDS is a key step towards reduction of salt consumption, as the resolution includes the goal of reducing daily salt intake by 30% by 2025. Salt reduction

is one the 9 global targets of the resolution, shown to be most cost-effective at tackling the NCD crisis. Salt reduction will have great benefits as is directed towards the whole population so most people will be exposed to the positive effects, also the cost of implementation is very low.

To read more about the progress towards salt reduction, visit the World Action on Salt & Health (WASH).

Photos: WHO, 2013

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