Paro, Bhutan | 7 September 2022 – The Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region today resolved to accelerate progress for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, including oral and eye care.
“The Region must build on the progress made in the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. Though trends are in the right direction, we need to accelerate efforts to achieve global, regional, and national goals,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, account for almost two-thirds of all deaths in the WHO South-East Asian Region. Nearly half of these deaths occurred prematurely between the ages of 30 and 69 years in 2021. The meeting noted the continuing high burden of disease and death due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, large number of untreated cases of dental caries and oral health conditions, and challenges in the provision of comprehensive eye care.
The Member countries endorsed the Implementation Roadmap for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in South-East Asia 2022–2030, and two action plans – for oral health in South-East Asia 2022–2030 and the Action Plan for integrated people-centered eye care in South-East Asia 2022–2030 during the ongoing Seventy-fifth Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia.
The regional NCD Implementation Roadmap 2022–2030 provides strategic directions to accelerate the national NCD response through the primary health care and universal health coverage routes to improve access, coverage and quality of NCD prevention and control interventions for the achievement of the 2025 and 2030 NCD targets.
Oral diseases are among the most common NCDs in the South-East Asian Region, with cases of untreated dental caries, severe periodontal diseases and edentulism estimated to be more than 900 million in 2019 . The South-East Asia Region has the highest oral cancer incidence and mortality rates among all WHO regions. The disease burden also shows strong inequalities with higher prevalence and severity in poor and disadvantaged populations. The Action Plan for Oral Health in South-East Asia 2022–2030 provides guidance to Member countries to develop impactful national actions to improve oral health through aligned approaches within the ambit of universal health coverage.
The Regional Action Plan for integrated people-centered eye care in South-East Asia 2022–2030 aims to provide ‘equitable access to high-quality, comprehensive eye health services to achieve universal eye health by 2030’ and accelerate progress towards achieving the global targets of refractive error and cataract surgery and two Regional targets for diabetic retinopathy and trachoma elimination.
The resolution calls for strengthening policy and legislative frameworks for this purpose, as well as advancing primary health care, universal health coverage, human resources, accountability and quality of national health information systems, and the crucial role of data and information systems at all levels to promote accountability.
“Decisive leadership and political commitment can provide the policy and legislative frameworks needed to integrate high-quality, comprehensive oral health and eye health services in primary health care to achieve the targets,” Dr Singh said.
The countries committed to accelerate progress against NCDs within the ambit of universal health coverage, adopting and implementing the guidance and tools from the Implementation Roadmap for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in South-East Asia 2022–2030.
WHO committed to provide adequate technical support to Member countries in the implementation of the three plans including strengthening of the related monitoring and evaluation systems, and collaborate with partners and all stakeholders for aligned and effective implementation of the Strategic Action Plans.