Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide and dominate health care needs and expenditure. NCDs - like cancer, heart disease and stroke, lung disease and diabetes - lead to more than 36 million deaths every year. More than nine million of all deaths attributed to NCDs were “premature deaths”, occurring before the age of 60. While NCDs are now common in all countries, low-income countries are particularly affected, with nine out of 10 premature deaths from NCDs occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
Non-communicable diseases are largely preventable through tackling common risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. They lead to the four common NCDs: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
Recognizing that NCDs are a major challenge for development in the 21st century, the Political Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011 called on the WHO to lead and coordinate global action against NCDs.
Mobile technology for NCDs
ITU and WHO, the UN information and communication technologies (ICTs) and health agencies, have come together in a ground-breaking new partnership to focus on the use of mobile technology to improve NCDs prevention and treatment.
This partnership aims to contribute to global and national efforts to save lives, minimize illness and disability, and reduce the social and economic burden due to NCDs.
This new UN initiative will harness the best mobile technology available and make it accessible for all countries to fight NCDs. A number of countries are already using mobile technology to deliver health promotion messages on the NCD risk factors, to survey the epidemic, to persuade users to change unhealthy behaviours and to help countries implement national laws on NCDs.
This initiative will take these successful pilots and scale them up in other countries. WHO will provide the technical assistance and ITU will help implement country projects through government partnership with the support from the private sector.
Mobile technology is a highly effective tool to:
- deliver health promotion messages on the NCD risk factors
- survey the epidemic, to persuade users to change unhealthy behaviours
- help countries implement national laws on NCDs
How the initiative works
The initiative, in its initial 4-year period, will scale-up mobile technology in eight priority countries, at least one in each region, for NCDs prevention, treatment and policy enforcement.
Activities will be two-fold: mHealth operational projects will be implemented within countries, and standard operating procedures developed for running mHealth NCDs intervention package to support more traditional NCDs prevention and control work.
Mobile solutions will be primarily sms or apps-based and will include a range of services including mAwareness, mTraining, mBehavioural change, mSurveillance, mTreatment, mDisease management and mScreening, building on existing successful pilots and scaling them to a population level.
Countries will choose the interventions that best suit their needs. Initiatives already underway include mCessation campaign for smokers in Costa Rica, and mDiabetes in Senegal to help people with diabetes manage their condition through the month of Ramadan.
At the global level, partners will be able to share knowledge and resources, lessons learnt and technical expertise to help develop the best solutions for each mHealth for NCDs intervention. Specific countries will be able to sponsor the initiative.
At the country level, implementing agencies will help roll out the operational projects, provide products and technical know-how, as well as contribute to the resources.