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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 43-49

Is the COVID-19 pandemic an opportunity to advance the global noncommunicable disease agenda?

1 Former WHO Executive Director, New York, USA
2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Nalini Sathiakumar
Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jncd.jncd_28_20

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More than 70% of the annual global deaths are due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and 80% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Most of these deaths are in people <70 years of age and can be prevented and controlled by addressing a set of modifiable risk factors, namely tobacco use, alcohol misuse, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and obesity. Recognizing the global burden of NCDs, the world's leaders adopted several policy instruments such as the NCD Global Action Plan, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the global monitoring framework on NCDs. In 2015, the UN General Assembly included reduction of premature mortality from NCDs by one-third by 2030 as target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Assessment of this target in 2018 found some progress with tobacco control, but the overall progress was inadequate. The global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought NCDs to the forefront. Preliminary data indicate that persons with NCDs are extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications including death. Focus on controlling the pandemic has led to delays in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of NCDs. This pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the health-care systems, exacerbated the inequalities within societies, and disproportionately affected the vulnerable groups. In the process of recovery and in future planning, governments and leaders need to take proactive actions toward the prevention and control of all avoidable deaths from NCDs if the SDG target 3.4 is to be achieved by 2030.

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