Ala Alwan

Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization

It is absolutely clear that the world is facing a global NCD crisis. Mortality from NCD before the age of 60 — which is premature death — is three times higher in poorer countries than in rich countries.

This is an example of the disparities that the world is witnessing today: 56 percent of people who die from NCDs in Sierra Leone die before the age of 60 years, while in Sweden only 7 percent die before the age of 60. Now, dying before the age of 60 is not only important in relation to health, but it’s also important in relation to productivity and in relation to socioeconomic development.

The serious impact that NCDs have on socioeconomic development is actually one of the reasons why this issue has been elevated to the [United Nations] General Assembly level. This is why heads of governments are interested and other sectors are interested. It’s not purely a health issue.

Dr. Ala Alwan Assistant Director-General, Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization (Courtesy /COURTESY)

The key questions are: How can we make a difference? What do we want to achieve globally, and what do we want to achieve at the country level? How can these be achieved? These are the key questions that have been the focus of negotiations of [U.N.] member states.