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Control of non-communicable diseases top priority for Kuwait -- Health Minister
July 11, 2014, 10:44 pm

Implementing the international conventions to prevent the spread of the non-communicable diseases is top priority not only for the government but also civil society organizations, stated Kuwait's Health Minister Ali Al-Obaidi.

"Since its adoption, the UN 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs topped the list of priorities of the Kuwaiti government and became the focus of great cooperation between relevant governmental and non-governmental organizations," said the Minister, in a speech read out on his behalf by the Health Ministry Undersecretary Khaled Al-Sahlawi during a high-level United Nations General Assembly meeting, held in New York late Thursday.

 Al-Obaidi reiterated Kuwait's commitment to put in place the UN-recommended mechanisms to control non-communicable diseases.   He pointed out Kuwait was among the first countries to move effectively to combat the NCD.   "Kuwait realized early the threat imposed by the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on public health, quality of life and comprehensive development, thus it was pioneering in taking moves and adopting initiatives to combat NCD particularly following the adoption of the UN 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs," he said.

The UN General Assembly meeting is held on July 10 and 14 in New York to undertake a comprehensive review and assessment on the prevention and control of NCDs. The high-level meeting shall take stock of the progress made in implementing the commitments in the 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs, identify and address gaps and reaffirm the political commitment in response to the challenge of NCDs.

Al-Obaidi stated that the Health Ministry has formed a higher committee, including representatives of various health sectors and civil society, to make surveys and evaluate the spread of the NCDs in Kuwait and set a national strategy based on the UN declaration to tackle the diseases.   "Kuwaiti government has also taken a number of bold initiatives to deal with the risk factors or the main causes of the NCDs," he said.

The government has ordered bakeries to reduce salt in bread by 20 percent with a view to prevent high blood pressure and other vascular diseases in Kuwait.    Kuwait also bans selling of alcohol and has recently banned smoking in public areas.   "Kuwait is committed to The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)," he said.

The FCTC aims to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by enacting a set of universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms worldwide.  He, furthermore, noted that the government has introduced a number of programs and activities into the educational system to nip in the bud in the causes of the NCDs.

"The government is also expanding the implementation of the School Health programs which include awareness campaigns, physical activities, and program to change negative lifestyles," he pointed out.  The Minister unveiled that the Ministry of Health conducts periodically surveys to review the situation of the NCDs in the country as well as for early discovery and treatment of the patients.

On the regional and international levels, he pointed out that Kuwait is cooperating with all governments in the region and world as well as with relevant regional and international organizations to speed up the implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration on NCDs.  "Early this year, health ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states have endorsed Kuwait's Declaration for control of non-communicable diseases and are cooperating to turn its goals into a reality on the ground."  The declaration tackles every health, environmental and educational aspects relative to the diseases.

"Kuwait is also proud of and committed to the mechanisms and recommendations put forwards by the declaration of the World Health Organization Regional Office of East Mediterranean countries which Kuwait hosted in April 2013."  The Minister expressed hopes that these strenuous efforts would bear fruit shortly thanks to the strong determination of the political leadership.

"We also hope our commitment, the strong determination of the political leadership, exchange of experience in technical, specialized meetings would help achieve the goal of creating a world free from NCDs," he concluded.   A non-communicable disease, or NCD, is a medical condition or disease, which by definition is non-infectious and non-transmissible among people.

NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types of sudden stroke. They include autoimmune diseases, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, cataracts, and more. According to the World Health Organization (Who), the NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year.

It is estimated that up to two thirds of these premature deaths from NCDs are linked to exposure to risk factors - namely, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol - with the remaining third of all such deaths linked to weak health systems that do not respond effectively and equitably to the health-care needs of people with NCDs - principally cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

In September 2011, Heads of State and Government adopted the Political Declaration on NCDs at the United Nations General Assembly and committed themselves to develop national plans to prevent and control NCDs. At the same time, WHO was requested to complete a number of global assignments that would accelerate national efforts.

Three years later, the good news is that there is now a global agenda in place based on nine concrete global targets for 2025, organized around the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, which comprises a set of actions which, when performed collectively by Member States, international partners and WHO, will help to attain a global target of a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025 and achieve the commitments made by world leaders in September 2011. The role of civil society and the private sector in contributing to national efforts to address NCDs needs to be clarified further and ways and means of measuring their contributions need to be established.

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