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Non-Communicable Diseases

Chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the number one cause of death and disability in the world. 

The major NCDs, that are responsible for almost 2/3 deaths annually, are:

The term NCDs encompasses many conditions that:

  • Are not caused by an acute infection
  • Cause long-term harm
  • Create a need for long-term (or even life-long) treatment

NCDs can be prevented most of the time. Common risk factors that can be reduced are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Harmful use of alcohol

Other non-communicable conditions also contribute to disease worldwide. These include mental and neuropsychiatric disorders, oral diseases, injuries, blindness, and others.

  • Over 80% of the estimated 35 million annual deaths are in low- and middle-income countries
  • Over 25% are among people below the age of 60

The United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs

The international community is very concerned about the effect of NCDs on families, communities, and nations. In response, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2011 held a meeting on NCD prevention and control. The goal of the meeting was to address the issue from all sides, including government, civil society organizations, and the private sector.


UN Member States adopted a political declaration calling on the World Health Organization(WHO) to develop a global monitoring framework and recommend voluntary global targets to prevent and control NCDs. Countries also committed to strengthen their national responses to NCDs and to increase international collaboration, working across government, civil society and the private sector.


In May 2013, the 66th World Health Assembly adopted a set of measures to tackle the global NCDs challenge. They endorsed a new Global Action Plan on NCDs containing suggested actions for WHO, countries, and international partners; called for work to improve multi-stakeholder collaboration; and adopted the global monitoring framework, including 25 indicators of progress and nine voluntary global targets to:

  • Cut avoidable, premature deaths from the leading NCDs by 25 percent
  • Decrease leading risk behaviors, namely tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, physical inactivity, excess salt/sodium intake
  • Stop the rise in diabetes and obesity, and reduce population levels of raised blood pressure
  • Encourage access to essential medicines and technologies for NCDs and promote appropriate use of drug therapy to reduce heart attacks and strokes


The NCD Summit was a unique chance to improve the United States' response to NCDs. The Summit also accelerated the execution of evidence-based NCD-related policies and programs.  In 2013, WHO and its Member States will finalize a Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs (2013-2020), building on the outcomes of the NCDs Summit and existing WHO strategies and tools to promote country-level and global progress on NCDs.


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NCDs and HHS

HHS supports many ways of preventing and controlling NCDs around the world. HHS supports basic, clinical, and applied research. HHS supports health systems strengthening activities, including training and workforce development. HHS also partners with multilateral institutions, which are organizations of multiple countries working together toward a common goal. Together, they develop, promote, and implement evidence-based health policies.

OGA, under HHS, leads multilateral efforts on global NCD issues. They work with partners at the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization. They also help coordinate HHS divisions and institutes working internationally.

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Learn More

For more information, please visit the links below.


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Health Systems Strengthening

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Multilateral Collaborations

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