Of the 54.7 million deaths globally in 2016, over 70 percent were attributable to NCDs. i

Why do countries need to focus on NCDs?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), principally cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, are the world’s leading source of premature death, illness and disability. NCDs are not confined to wealthier nations - nearly 75 percent of NCD deaths occur in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), as do over 85 percent of premature NCD deaths.

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NCDs place an enormous and unsustainable burden on health systems, jeopardizing universal health coverage ambitions. They also sap national economies. For LMICs, medical costs and productivity losses from NCDs project to exceed US$ 20 trillion between 2010 and 2030, without scaled up action.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes specific targets to reduce premature mortality from NCDs and to strengthen implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). Achieving these targets will deliver gains across Agenda 2030, given the relationship between NCDs, poverty, inequalities, economic growth, climate action and other goals and targets.

The need for multi-sectoral action

Most premature NCD death, illness and disability is preventable by taking cost-effective action to tackle four main behavioural risk factors – tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet. Ensuring access to prevention and treatment services, and addressing environmental risks such as air pollution, are also key.

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Tackling NCDs and their risk factors requires a response from government sectors beyond health. Population exposure to NCD risks, and access to services, are determined largely by policies in finance, agriculture, environment, urban planning, trade, labour, education and other ‘non-health’ sectors. This means that early death, illness and disability from NCDs are largely avoidable through improved policy coherence across sectors.

UNDP’s Offer

As a development agency, UNDP is committed to addressing NCDs because they impose significant social and economic costs. UNDP, in cooperation with WHO, the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC and other partners, supports governments in all regions to implement or strengthen whole-of-government NCD responses.

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  • UNDP is the UN’s leading agency on governance and sustainable development and can foster coordination beyond the health sector, including meaningful civil society engagement.
  • UNDP has extensive expertise in implementing large health programmes. In partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, UNDP provides implementation support services for health programmes, as well as strengthening financial and risk management, procurement systems for health products, monitoring and evaluation, support for civil society engagement and additional resource mobilization.
  • UNDP has developed a core team of global, regional and country staff to help countries address the growing challenge posed by NCDs.

In line with its Strategic Plan 2018-2021 and HIV, Health and Development Strategy, Connecting the Dots: 2016-2021, UNDP’s work on NCDs contributes to its broader commitment to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, strengthen effective and inclusive governance, and build resilient and sustainable systems for health.

Featured work: making the investment case for scaled up action

UNDP and WHO have developed a joint programme on Activating National Responses to NCDs. With the Framework Convention Secretariat and WHO, UNDP is supporting the FCTC 2030 project, which aims to strengthen WHO FCTC implementation to achieve the SDGs.

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This work includes support to ministries of health to develop national investment cases for scaled up action. The cases calculate the economic costs of NCDs/tobacco to a country, the costs of ‘best buy’ interventions/stronger WHO FCTC implementation, and the returns on those investments, in terms of lives saved and economic costs averted.

Together with the economic analyses, UNDP-led institutional and context analyses identify opportunities to strengthen policy coherence and multisectoral planning and coordination.

NCD investment cases

FCTC investment cases

Guidance & Tools

Sectoral Briefs

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The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

UNDP and the Framework Convention Secretariat produced this paper to support Parties to the Convention, development partners, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to accelerate tobacco control and sustainable development in an integrated manner.

Other resources