ITU and WHO launch m-Health initiative to combat non-communicable diseases
Plan to save lives and reduce costs agreed at ITU
Telecom World 2012
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 17 October 2012 – The
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization
(WHO) today launched a new partnership called the ‘m-Health’ Initiative to use
mobile technology, in particular text messaging and apps, to help combat
non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular
diseases and chronic respiratory diseases.
Non-communicable diseases are some of the leading causes of death and disease
in both developed countries and emerging economies alike. They dominate health
care needs and expenditures in most developed as well as most low and
middle-income countries. Of the 57 million deaths globally, NCDs contribute to
an estimated 36 million deaths every year, including 14 million people dying
between the ages of 30 to 70. Using mobile telephone technology, m-Health
practices can help save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce
healthcare costs significantly.
Through the Initiative, ITU and WHO will provide evidence-based and
operational guidance to encourage partners worldwide, especially governments, to
implement m-Health interventions to address prevention and treatment of NCDs and
their common risk factors – tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and
the harmful use of alcohol.
The Initiative is being discussed at the ITU Telecom World 2012, currently in
session at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The
conference is a rare opportunity for thought leaders and digital pioneers in the
corporate, research and academic sectors from around the world to meet with
high-ranking policy makers and regulators, collaborating to share ideas on the
future of global telecommunications.
M-Health: A unique opportunity to combat ill health and disease
“Technological innovations are changing the landscape of disease prevention
and control. The widespread availability of mobile technology, including in many
of the least developed countries, is an exceptional opportunity to expand the
use of e-health. By joining forces, ITU and WHO will fight against debilitating
non-communicable diseases that can be controlled through the intervention of
m-Health solutions and services that are at once cost effective, scalable and
sustainable,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. “In doing so, we
will help end a scourge that hinders economic growth and development around the
The ITU-WHO m-Health initiative will build on current projects, existing
health systems and platforms, and will involve partnerships between governments,
NGOs and the private sector.
“WHO is already using mobile devices to carry out surveillance of
non-communicable diseases and their risk factors. For example, the Global Adult
Tobacco Surveillance system has used mobile phones to capture data on tobacco
use in 17 countries – covering over half of the world’s population. This
experience of running population-scale mobile projects will be vital to the
initiative,” said Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for
Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health.
WHO and ITU Member States are also testing mobile solutions for NCDs –
ranging from providing assistance to help people quit tobacco, helping people
increase their activity levels, eating more healthily and helping patients with
non-communicable diseases better manage their conditions. All of these
experiences will feed into the new initiative.
The ITU-WHO m-Health Initiative, which will initially run for a four-year
period and focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement to control
non-communicable diseases, will work with partnerships at all levels. At the
global level, partners will share knowledge and technical expertise to help
develop the standard operating procedure for each m-Health intervention as well
as build support for the Initiative. At the national level, governments work
closely with the Initiative to accelerate the roll out of operational projects.
The joint ITU-WHO work plan is a direct follow up to the high level meeting
on the prevention and control of NCDs convened by the United Nations General
Assembly in New York in 2011 where world leaders and the UN community agreed to
pay greater attention to finding ways to deal with the growing global spread of
NCD’s and UN agencies agreed to work together to prevent and control NCDs and
their risk factors.
For more information on ITU Telecom World 2012, see
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information, ITU
Coordinator, News, Social Media and Monitoring, WHO
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United
Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health
matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards,
articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to
countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. In the 21st century,
health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care
and collective defence against transnational health threats.