2018 United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases

UNGA 2018

The United Nations (UN) adopted a UN Political Declaration on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), which include cancer, on 27 September. Supported by advocacy efforts by ESMO and other societies, the Declaration includes a specific paragraph about cancer, which says that UN Member States will promote access to affordable diagnostic, screening, treatment and care as well as vaccines that lower the risk for cancer, as part of the comprehensive approach to its prevention and control, including cervical and breast cancers. Alexandru Eniu, Chair of the ESMO Global Policy Committee, attended the UN meeting on behalf of ESMO to deliver an ESMO statement on cancer.

The UN Political Declaration represents a major win for the oncology community. It complements the 2017 WHO ‘Cancer Resolution’ which is the reference document for actions by the WHO and its Member States across the entire continuum of cancer care. The Declaration’s main goal is to reduce health risks and to improve patient outcomes through Universal Health Coverage in order to reduce deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025 and 33% by 2030. These are ambitious goals whose implementation will require the engagement of all stakeholders.

ESMO Statement for the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs

As part of its global policy efforts, ESMO attended the 3rd United Nations High-level Meeting on NCDs. Dr Alexandru Eniu, ESMO Global Policy Committee Chair, submitted an ESMO statement to the UN Secretariat to raise awareness that 30 to 50% of cancer deaths can be avoided with investments in prevention, early detection, and cancer treatment, and that that essential cancer medicines, vaccines, and opioids are affordable. The statement highlights the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale as a tool to assist governments to prioritize the reimbursement of new innovative expensive cancer medicines that have the highest clinical benefit for patients.

ESMO-ASCO Joint Statement before the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs

Before the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, ESMO and ASCO issued a joint public statement on cancer urging all UN Member States to make sure that cancer was included in the 2018 UN Political Declaration on NCDs.

ESMO and ASCO issued a joint statement because recent UN and WHO reports indicate that if governments do not scale-up their actions and investments to address NCDs, they will not meet the pre-agreed targets to reduce deaths from these diseases. The ESMO-ASCO statement provides recommendations to help governments achieve their goal.

In the joint statement, ESMO and ASCO advocated for the UN Member States to increase prevention, screening and early detection as well as to respect the principle of ‘access for all’, meaning that cancer services be available to everyone who requires them. As the world’s two leading oncology societies, ESMO and ASCO openly stated their readiness to provide governments with expertise in cancer management as countries around the world increase their efforts to prevent and control cancer.

About the 3rd UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs

The 2018 UN meeting allowed Heads of State and Government to conduct a comprehensive review of the progress achieved since their first meeting in 2011 where they committed to reduce the risk of dying prematurely from NCDs. Recent UN and WHO reports show that progress made to date is inadequate and this UN meeting presented the opportunity for governments to demonstrate renewed political leadership and commitment to take action to avoid a preventable global health crisis.

The 2018 UN Political Declaration on NCDs acknowledges the urgent need for concerted global efforts to address the prevention and control of NCDs by UN agencies, the WHO, all sectors of government, and non-State actors like ESMO. It addresses the need to strengthen health systems, improve access to safe, affordable, effective quality essential medicines and vaccines, and to properly plan for a well-trained and equipped oncology workforce to deliver optimal cancer care and achieve Universal Health Coverage. The Declaration reaffirms health as a basic human right and as the precondition for sustainable global development and achievement of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Past UN High-Level Meetings on NCDs

The UN General Assembly has held 3 High-level Meetings on the Prevention and Control of NCDs in 2011, 2014, and 2018. The UN Political Declarations from these meetings summarize the actions that governments commit to implement to reduce the burden of NCDs worldwide. The WHO transformed the 2011 commitments into a WHO Global Action Plan on the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020, with voluntary targets countries commit to achieve by 2025 when the UN will hold another High-level Meeting on NCDs.

ESMO collaboration with the United Nations and the WHO

The WHO is the health agency of the United Nations. By working closely with the WHO and the UN, ESMO is able to provide input to global cancer policies and make the voice of its members heard at the highest political levels. In 2013 ESMO received ‘official relations status’ with WHO which recognizes the value of our partnership with WHO over the years, and our continued collaboration with them for the implementation the 2017 WHO Cancer Resolution.

Recent health and NCD publications and investment cases

2018 publications by the WHO and The Lancet support countries to implement WHO and UN Resolutions and to understand the costs associated with achieving the goals:

  • Saving lives, spending less: a strategic response to noncommunicable diseases’, outlines the health and economic benefits of implementing the most cost-effective and feasible interventions to prevent and control NCDs (WHO Best Buys) in low- and middle-income countries. An additional investment of US$1.27 per person per year would reduce deaths from NCDs by 15%, save  8 million lives, produce a positive return on investment of US$7 for every $1 invested, and generate 350 billion in economic growth, all by 2030.
  • A healthier humanity: the WHO investment case for 2019-2023 calls for US$ 14.1 billion over 5 years to save 30 million lives with positive return on investment. It is part of the WHO five-year strategic plan that focuses on a Triple Billion target:
    • To provide a billion more people with universal health coverage
    • To protect one more billion people from health emergencies
    • To provide a further billion people with better health and well-being
  • Lancet article NCD Countdown 2030: worldwide trends in NCD mortality and progress towards SDG target 3.4 to reduce premature NCD mortality by 33% by 2030 notes more than half of countries are not on track to meet global targets. The report is the first from NCD Countdown 2030 – an independent annual monitor of progress on reducing the worldwide burden of NCDs – a collaboration led by The Lancet, World Health Organisation, Imperial College London and NCD Alliance.