JIS News

KINGSTON — Health Minister, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has welcomed the World Health Organization's (WHO) Declaration, which outlines approaches to be taken in addressing the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally.

Speaking at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases in New York on September 19, the Minister noted that, as the first comprehensive statement by global Heads of their commitment to addressing NCDs, the Declaration provides a “good platform” to facilitate on-going dialogue of the developmental and other impacts of NCDs by the General Assembly.

Alluding to a WHO report suggesting that NCDs are currently responsible for more deaths globally than all other factors combined, Mr. Spencer contended that the global burden and attendant threat posed by NCDs constitute one of the major challenges for 21st Century development.

“NCDs are the world’s number one killer, and devastate poor as well as rich countries alike. Therefore, responding to NCDs is a moral, social and economic imperative. It is, therefore fitting, that in response to the leadership of the member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), global attention has been accorded to the rising epidemic of NCDs at the highest level,” he stated.

The Minister also commended Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the UN, His Excellency Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, and Ambassador to Luxembourg, Her Excellency Sylvie Lucas, for their input in the drafting of the Declaration. Both diplomats, Mr. Spencer informed, served as co-facilitators in guiding the negotiations resulting in the formulation of the consensus document, which is expected to be adopted at the conclusion of the two-day meeting, today September 20.

Mr. Spencer, however, voiced concern that the Declaration does not advocate what he described as more “decisive action,” in order to “save millions” of the 52 million lives which are projected to be lost by 2030.

“Having recognised that there is a global threat, which must be addressed urgently, the Declaration failed to commit the international community to increased and sustained resources to achieve this goal. Although NCDs are a global challenge, they strike hardest at the developing world and lower income populations. Strong evidence links poverty, lack of education and other determinants to NCDs and their risk factors. There is also a clear linkage between the incidence of NCDs and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Clearly, addressing the NCDs comprehensively will help to eliminate poverty and create a more equitable world,” he said.

Notwithstanding this, the Minister said several gains were achieved. These, he pointed out, included the need identified to enhance the implementation of multi-sectoral, cost-effective, population-wide interventions, in order to reduce the impact of common NCD risk factors. This, he argued, must include health promotion and primary prevention approaches; galvanising actions for the prevention and control of NCDs; and integrating NCD policies and programmes into health planning processes, as well as through the development agenda.

“Jamaica commits to those measures in the Declaration, aimed at saving lives in the short term, and creating a healthy society which will assist in preventing NCDs in the future. Our Government will continue to strive to increase access to affordable, safe, effective and quality-assured medicines, and to improve access to palliative and rehabilitative services, particularly at the community level,” he assured.

Stressing that the meeting must result in global consensus for strengthened commitment to urgent action on NCDs and attendant risk factors, Mr. Spencer urged the UN General Assembly to take an active role in the response of member states.

“Victory in this struggle demands the concerted effort of each and every member of the global community,” he asserted.


By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter