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Reflections on the UN High-level Meeting on NCDs

10 Oct 2018

The theme for the 2018 High-level Meeting on NCDs was Scaling up multistakeholder and multisectoral responses for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


23 Heads of State and Government and 55 Ministers of Health issued statements, showing significant attendance by governments. Many shared their experiences of managing and preventing NCDs in their countries, including challenges and success stories, frequently referring to primary prevention. Many also brought up their experiences of implementing the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The NCD civil society community, including the WHF President, Board members and staff, was in full force throughout the entire week at the UNGA and the HLM, and we will continue to raise our voices as we prepare for the High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in 2019.


Access to medicines, treatment, and care for NCDs was rarely mentioned by governments in their statements, and only a small number of civil society representatives were given the opportunity to speak during the multistakeholder panels.

We were also disappointed to see a lack of involvement and attendance by Ministries of Finance during both the HLM and the side events that took place during the week. Ministries of Finance are crucial in supporting country-level efforts to prevent and manage NCDs.

All in all, we are concerned with the outcomes of the meeting, which didn’t result in any financial commitments by governments to accelerate national NCD responses.

Read the Political Declaration of the third High-level Meeting on NCDs

Read our official statement in response to the Political Declaration

Tobacco control at the heart of preventing NCDs: The success story of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

On the morning of the High-level Meeting, WHF co-sponsored a side event together with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and Cancer Research UK. The event highlighted the importance of tobacco control, and the FCTC more specifically, in preventing NCDs. WHF President Professor David Wood spoke on WHF’s contribution to the implementation of the FCTC, touching on WHF’s work around the world and emphasized the striking global burden of CVD related to tobacco use. The substantial knowledge gap regarding the impact of tobacco use on heart health is a key reason for the need to highlight this data. Professor Wood also reiterated the importance for WHF of tobacco control, including cessation, tax, and illicit trade.

The event saw the participation of several panelists from governments and civil society who highlighted the importance of FCTC implementation and acceleration, impressive country level progress and future plans, and the importance of divesting from tobacco in pension funds.

Representatives from the Tobacco Free Portfolios campaign, who participated in the event, previously launched the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge, of which WHF are founding signatories, at a separate UNGA side event.

Click here to sign the pledge

Watch David Wood’s presentation at the FCTC Side Event

Next Steps

The next High-level Meeting on NCDs is not until 2025, 7 years from now. This is far too long to wait to assess countries’ progress and commitment to NCDs. In the meantime, WHF will monitor country NCD action plans to determine commitment to CVD and circulatory health, and advocate for the inclusion of NCDs in the upcoming Universal Health Coverage debate at the UN in 2019.

We will also aim to bring existing international efforts, such as FCTC implementation and access to medicines, to the forefront of the NCD agenda. Access to medicines will play an integral role in the NCD and UHC agendas. The WHO, in consultation with Member States, was tasked with creating a roadmap to outline the access to medicines and vaccines programs, activities, actions, and deliverables for 2019-2023.

Learn more about the roadmap

The next General Meeting of the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (GCM/NCD) will be held in Geneva on 5-6 November, 2018. WHF will be in attendance and contribute to the discussion around enhancing coordination of activities, multistakeholder engagement, and action across all sectors to promote the implementation of the WHO NCD Action Plan 2013-2020. We look forward to participating and working toward achieving the NCD-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Read more about the GCM/NCD meeting