21 March 2017

BLOG: Integrating NCDs for health and wellbeing

By Nana Taona Kuo*

Noncommunicable diseases not only affect the health of women and girls; but also the health and life opportunities of their children. For example, being born to a malnourished mother increases the chances of the child suffering from under-nutrition, late physical and cognitive development, and NCDs in adulthood.

Women, children and adolescents often lack enabling environments where their needs are respected and addressed—and where they feel safe and are encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles.

We still have a long way to go to ensure that the workplace, cities, families and communities, offer the information, infrastructure, opportunities and services needed to improve the situation. This is critical if we are serious about fighting NCDs.

The good news is that NCDs are generating increasing interest within the international community. Over the past two years major action platforms have been launched in these areas, including the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

We are fostering a multisector approach to realize health and wellbeing, recognizing that health-enhancing factors—including nutrition, education, water, clean air, sanitation, hygiene and infrastructure—are essential to achieving internationally agreed goals.

This will not only require strengthening the control of NCDs and integrating it into women’s health frameworks and platforms; but also innovative partnerships and collaboration, and expanding services to meet health needs at all ages.

None of this will be possible without women, children and adolescents at the centre of the discussion and collective action. These are issues that affect all of our lives. Personally, I’ve always been concerned about what kind nutrition my family has access to. For example, I want to ensure my seven-year-old daughter will make healthy choices when she is not at home.

Our choices matter. From the kind of food we and our families eat every day to the amount of exercise we include in our routine—our choices can have a tremendous impact on our communities and nations. They also impact the private sector and can act as investments in healthier practices. Let’s make the most of them and help change the world. Let’s beat NCDs.

*Senior Manager, Every Woman Every Child Team, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations.