144th session of the WHO Executive Board © NCDA / L. Westerman
January 2019, 144th session of the WHO Executive Board © NCDA / L. Westerman

WHO Executive Board 150: Achieving a world with no person left behind

07th February 2022

We often hear of “wins” in advocacy and as we reflect on the 150th WHO Executive Board (EB150) meeting it is fair to say it delivered a milestone “win” in the adoption of a Decision covering many aspects of the noncommunicable disease (NCD) policy response.

Whilst WHO Member States demonstrated their commitment to charting a course to recovery and resilience in the face of COVID-19 through a proposed new pandemic legal accord, they also stated that the world must “not forget ongoing health challenges caused by NCDs in the midst of health emergencies”, as highlighted by New Zealand. We could not agree more. You can find NCD Alliance’s 12 recommendations for resilience and recovery from COVID-19 here.

Governments’ statements on Agenda Item 7: Political declaration of the third High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of NCDs

Over two days of the Executive Board meeting, a total of 55 WHO Member States made statements on the omnibus decision proposed under agenda Item 7 which focused on NCDs. Discussions concluded when the Executive Board unanimously agreed to pass the decision, including recommendations contained within 10 supporting annexes. This decision will now be considered by Ministers of Health of all WHO Member States during the 75th World Health Assembly (May 2022).

In summary, with the passing of this milestone NCD decision, the members of the Executive Board recommended that the Assembly in May approve numerous draft plans and recommendations. Further details on the full content of the Decision and recommendations contained in the 10 annexes can be found in the NCD Alliance advocacy briefing.

Member State’s NCD interest areas

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included mention of NCDs in his successful interview for re-election, emphasising “PHC should be the foundation” of NCD services. We were also encouraged to hear Eswatini speaking positively about its experience integrating NCD services into HIV care. Find out more about the potential of integrating NCD prevention and care into global health initiatives and UHC in this policy research report we published last year.

There was widespread support for the upcoming Implementation Roadmap which offers Member States support in the form of guidance, practical tools and tailored, country-specific approaches to accelerate progress towards NCD targets for 2025 and 2030. National delegates showcased many examples of country action on NCDs, from the Philippines including kidney diseases in the extended package of essential NCD services in primary healthcare to Argentina’s recently adopted front-of-pack food labelling policy.

Many delegates encouraged WHO to ensure a more comprehensive approach to NCDs as part of the Implementation Roadmap, beyond the narrow original mandate of the ‘4x4’ NCD approach, often calling on WHO to include environmental risk factors. Guyana called for a more inclusive “5x5+ approach” covering more NCDs as well as mental health. Spain pushed for WHO to develop an action plan on transplants for WHA2022, with the aim to support low- and middle-income countries to include transplants within essential NCD care service packages. NCD Alliance has explained this in more detail in this policy brief. The need for dedicated action on mental health was also highlighted by many national delegates, many of whom noted the enormous impact of the pandemic on population mental health.

As a civil society organisation, we were grateful to hear support for a multisectoral, multistakeholder approach to NCDs from Bangladesh, Columbia, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Slovenia. We were particularly pleased to hear the USA specifically mention the need for “engagement of people living with NCDs in development and implementation” of the Implementation Roadmap – which NCDA has also advocated for. We will certainly be following up to invite them to sign up to the “Global Charter on the Meaningful Involvement of People Living with NCDs”!

What happens next?

Whilst the EB decision is a milestone, NCD advocates will work to ensure that the recommendations on all of these NCD topics receive widespread support at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2022. Only after adoption by the full Assembly will they be considered formally approved.

And of course, we must not lose sight of the fact that, as important as WHA decisions are, the most important policy changes needed for people living with or at risk of NCDs are those implemented in the countries where they live. These are the changes that will create a world that leaves no person behind in access to essential NCD treatment and care.

For those who are interested in listening to the recordings in full, they can be found here on the WHO website (for 3 months after the EB). If you would like to discuss any of the points raised by NCD Alliance in more detail, please reach out to our Policy and Advocacy team via [email protected].

About the author 

Grace Dubois is NCDA's Policy & Advocacy Manager. She joined the NCD Alliance in 2020 and is responsible for developing and implementing NCDA’s policy and advocacy work on Universal Health Coverage and an Inclusive NCD Agenda. Grace is a medical doctor by background with specialist training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Upon joining NCDA she had held project management positions in humanitarian and development settings in Iraq, Myanmar and Cambodia. She holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of Manchester.