The WHO’s Global Meeting to Accelerate Progress on NCDs and Mental Health was held in December in Oman. A key objective of the meeting was to network and share experiences on scaling up national responses. To date, WHO Member States have been slow to respond, and progress has been uneven in the implementation of NCD programs and policy implementation. This global meeting aimed to engage non-health Ministers in an effort to encourage cross-agency and multisectoral collaboration. More than 600 representatives from governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector, philanthropies, and academia were present.
The meeting, hosted by the government of the Sultanate of Oman, served as a reflection of the region’s strategic leadership and political commitment. Country examples were showcased by its leaders and Dr. Ahmed Al Mandhari, the WHO Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO). In his speech, he called for “Health For all By All,” reflecting the conviction that health is too important to be the responsibility of health professionals alone. The Minister of Health for the Maldives was among one of the keynotes addressing NCDs by controlling the marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children and the implementation of their marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
During the meeting, special attention was given to support the capacity of national NCD focal points in the implementation of key priority interventions. Key policies that were emphasized included the taxation of tobacco and sugary beverages as well as policy solutions to reduce air pollution. Addressing obesity with a focus on youth and universal health coverage were also key components to these discussions, along with how multi-stakeholder forums are being governed and held accountable.
One of the most noticeable outcomes to the meeting was the report issued from the High-Level Commission on NCDs. The Commission's co-chairs include the presidents of Finland, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay, Russia’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Sania Nishtar, a leading NCDs expert and advocate and a former Pakistan health minister. The first report of the Commission was released in June 2019 and this second report provides possible solutions against NCDs.