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ITU-WHO Mobile Health for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Initiative

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, Nine out of 10 premature deaths from NCDs occurred in low- and middle-income countries. 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 WHO to lead and coordinate global action against 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.
NCDs 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.

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.

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.

The Partners 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 and patron 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.

ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies ( ICTs). ITU allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develops the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strives to improve access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide. 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.​