Ukraine: Action Needed to Curb NCDs Epidemic
WHO Europe has called for action to curb NCDs in Ukraine. They report 84% of all deaths in the country result from Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their major risk factors. Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for NCDs along with tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
Too many Ukrainians die early from preventable causes – action is needed to curb NCDs
Five major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and mental health disorders – contribute to nearly 84% of all deaths in Ukraine. Almost 30% of men who died in 2017 from NCDs were in the working age group of 30–65 years.
The probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 is much higher in Ukraine than in other European countries, and almost twice as high for men as for women. This burden is simply unaffordable for a country that strives for social and economic development.
Since most of these diseases are closely linked to tobacco and alcohol use, insufficient physical activity and unhealthy diet, they are largely preventable. Multisectoral action in partnership with multiple stakeholders is needed to achieve disease prevention and health promotion through tackling risk factors like alcohol.
Ukraine’s achievements and country priorities in combating NCDs were discussed at the National Conference on Noncommunicable Diseases. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine organized and hosted the event together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Participants represented a wide range of stakeholders, including the World Bank, development agencies, international experts and national partners, as well as doctors and teachers from all over Ukraine.
WHO supports countries in implementing their plans and strategies in the health sector in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. More action is needed to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
To achieve this target, we have to make sure that evidence-based policies are in place, that best practices for prevention and treatment are applied, and that every person can take informed decisions about their habits and lifestyle,” Dr Mikkelsen added.
Dr Ulana Suprun, the acting Minister of Health of Ukraine said:
For decades, the Ukrainian health system was aimed at treatment, not prevention of diseases.
Since 2016, the transformation of the health system has been focused on preventive health-care services and health promotion. Such an approach has proven to be the most effective, particularly for combating NCDs.”
Improving policy to save more lives
In addition to the training activities, the Ministry of Health and partners, including WHO and non-government organizations, developed a number of legislative initiatives. Among them are the national NCD action plan, draft laws on tobacco control, food-based dietary guidelines and draft legislation banning industrial trans-fatty acids.
Timely approval and enforcement of these legislative initiatives in Ukraine will ensure the country’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals through implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, transformation of the mental health-care system and other activities.
However, efforts to tackle the heavy alcohol burden are still very insufficient.
Alcohol harm in Ukraine
Alcohol harm in Ukraine is at epidemic levels and the country is one of the highest ranked concerning years of life lost due to alcohol.
Over half the alcohol using young boys engage in binge alcohol use. This is specially worrying as Ukrainian men suffer significantly more from alcohol use disorders as well as alcohol dependence when compared with the WHO European region.
Ukraine urgently needs a comprehensive alcohol control policy to curb alcohol harm. Alcohol control is important for NCD reduction as well since its one of the major risk factors for NCDs.