Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting Auckland have recognised the seriousness of the threat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose and have declared the ‘Pacific is in an NCD Crisis’. The leaders made the declaration in the Forum communiqué issued on 8 September. They expressed their deep concern that NCDs have reached epidemic proportions and has become a ‘human, social and economic crisis’ requiring an urgent and comprehensive response.
The leaders recalled the Honiara Communiqué on the Pacific Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Crisis issued by Health Ministers on 30 June 2011, which highlighted the impact of the rapid increase and prevalence of NCDs in the region.
Deeply concerned that an estimated 75 percent of all adult deaths in the Pacific were due to NCDs, with the majority of the deaths occurring in adults in the economically-active age bracket, Leaders acknowledged the huge economic losses due to NCDs and the resultant impact on national health budgets and possibly the region's ultimate achievement of the MDGs.
Leaders adopted the Forum Leaders' Statement on Non-Communicable Diseases attached as Annex 2. Leaders undertook to maintain close attention to the issue in collaboration with major development partners and to deliver strong statements on the crisis facing the region at the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in September 2011.
Forum Leaders’ Statement on Non-Communicable Diseases
Leaders expressed their deep concern that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has reached epidemic proportions in Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) and has become a ‘human, social and economic crisis’ requiring an urgent and comprehensive response.
Leaders expressed alarm that 75 percent of all adult deaths in the Pacific are due to NCDs the majority of whom are in the economically active age bracket and that many more times this number suffer severe side effects that undermine their capacity to contribute further to economic development.
Leaders expressed grave concern that NCDs can undermine the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which for a region that is already struggling to meet the 2015 targets provides an even greater challenge.
Conscious of the assessment by the World Economic Forum ranking NCDs as one of the top global threats to economic development, Leaders noted with concern the huge economic costs of NCDs in the Pacific and in particular the rapidly rising expenditure on NCDs comprising well over 50 percent of the total health budget of many island countries.
Leaders were particularly concerned that if allowed to continue unabated NCDs has the potential to undermine labour supply, productivity, investment and education, four of the main factors driving economic growth with potentially devastating consequences, especially in Pacific island countries and territories.
Leaders recognised the seriousness of the threat that NCD poses to the people in Pacific Island countries and territories and the urgency to address it and declared the ‘Pacific is in an NCD Crisis’.
Leaders welcomed the commitment by the Pacific Ministers of Health to provide sustained leadership and support for NCD prevention and control and lead ‘whole of government and whole of society’ approaches to address the NCDs crisis. Leaders also welcomed the commitment by Pacific Ministers of sports to help address NCDs through sports.
Leaders congratulated the Government of Palau for taking the unprecedented step of declaring ‘NCDs as a national crisis’ by Executive Order, acknowledging that such leadership and political commitment is called for to deal with this crisis in individual countries and within the region.
Leaders acknowledged that most of the interventions required to control NCDs exist outside of the health sector and called for a ‘whole of government and whole of society’ response to the crisis.
Leaders committed themselves and their governments to expedite implementation of the five key intervention areas that have been proven to reduce NCDs - tobacco control; improved diets – mainly through reduction of salt, fats and sugar; physical activity; reduced alcohol intake; and access to essential drugs and technologies, noting in particular that many NCD interventions are revenue-generating such as increases in taxes for tobacco and alcohol.
Leaders emphasised the importance of acting quickly and decisively and called on governments, private sector, civil society, regional and international organisations and development partners to work together to address this rapidly unfolding crisis. Leaders called on the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the World Health organisation and other CROP agencies to work with all PICTs through their respective ‘whole of government, whole of society’ machineries to strengthen their capacities to address NCDs as a matter of urgency.