This was a statement delivered at the 73rd Session of the World Health Organization RCM for the EURO Region.
Honourable Chair, distinguished delegates,
On behalf of the European Heart Network and World Heart Federation, we thank you for this opportunity to jointly address the Regional Committee on one of the most critical subjects of our time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an incalculable toll on the mental and physical health of our societies; the fiscus has been negatively impacted and will take many years to recover. This past year has united us in facing a truly global challenge, but it has also exposed deep, enduring fault lines and inequities in the population health and health systems of nearly every country represented here today. The WHO’s pulse surveys have demonstrated that essential services for NCDs and mental health have been heavily disrupted in almost every Member State, but only eighteen of these have reported that NCDs are included in national preparedness and response plans.
We have a unique responsibility to draw your attention to the wave of post-pandemic consequences we now collectively face. CVD patients were one of the most vulnerable groups regarding COVID-19 infections, and some patients infected with COVID-19, developed CVD conditions for the first time. The combined impacts of complications due to COVID-19 and non-communicable multi-morbidities, as well as interruptions to crucial medical interventions and ongoing care for people living with hypertension, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, stroke, cancer, and other circulatory and non-communicable disease conditions (NCDs) – those most at risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 – must necessarily exacerbate the already huge burden borne by stressed health systems with gaps in human resources.
We therefore implore you to urgently address the key risk factors and preventative measures that can help fight the hidden “syndemic” of NCDs, and especially circulatory, diseases and health emergencies such as COVID-19. We call on EURO Member States to:
- Prioritize ongoing prevention, screening, and treatment for circulatory and non-communicable conditions in national COVID-19 or general emergency response and recovery plans through concerted patient co-creation and collaboration;
- Increase domestic allocation of resources and develop targeted policies to tackle CVD and NCD risk factors, including the commercial determinants of health, through funding mechanisms such as taxation of unhealthy commodities, such as alcohol and tobacco;
- Integrate monitoring and data collection on NCD prevalence, comorbidities, and risk factors into measures of pandemic readiness, resilience, and response; and
- Strengthen Primary Health Care to ensure equitable and integrated access to essential health services, particularly for people living with NCDs and in low-resource settings.
We thank you for your attention and remain dedicated to supporting you in these vital endeavors, so that together we may prepare for, and with perseverance, prevent the next global health emergency.