Leading Canadian health charities urge renewed federal government leadership on non-communicable diseases

27 May 2013

Toronto -

Every year more than 150,000 Canadians die from four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs): cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. Together NCDs (also known as chronic diseases) account for 65% of all deaths in Canada and 60% of all deaths globally – an estimated 35 million deaths worldwide.

Four of Canada’s leading health charities – the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Canadian Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation – are applauding the adoption today at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland of global targets and a global action plan to reduce premature death from NCDs by 25% by 2025. The charities further congratulate the Government of Canada for its role in ensuring strong targets and a comprehensive action plan that will support national efforts across the globe. The charities  call on the federal government to contribute to achieving the global targets by taking a leadership role in reducing NCDs in Canada.

“Swift and meaningful action is needed due to Canada’s aging population and the rise in unhealthy lifestyles, and the resulting impact on chronic disease,” says Pamela Fralick, President and CEO, Canadian Cancer Society. “In addition to the devastating health and emotional toll, the economic impact of treating chronic diseases puts severe pressure on Canada’s health system budgets.”

At the World Health Assembly, member states (including Canada) voted to adopt the Non-Communicable Disease Global Monitoring Framework. This framework sets global targets and will enable worldwide tracking of progress in preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases. Together the federal and provincial governments need to set Canadian targets and develop a comprehensive NCD strategy to achieve the targets.

The four health charities believe that while Canada has made progress in addressing NCDs, the country needs a strategy that addresses the entire continuum of care, from prevention to end-of-life care.

“More must be done to prevent these diseases in Canada, as well as improve the treatment and support of those affected,” says Bobbe Wood, President of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “This is especially critical in Canada where insufficient progress has been made in addressing certain chronic disease risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Also of concern is the increase over the years in the consumption of processed foods and the size of sugary drinks,” she adds.

Non-communicable diseases are largely preventable and share common risk factors. Reducing tobacco use and alcohol consumption, improving air quality, increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy diets are all helping to reduce incidence of NCDs in Canada. Individually and collectively, the charities have been active in both raising awareness about how to reduce risk factors associated with these diseases and in encouraging Canadians to take preventive action. The four charities are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the prevalence and premature deaths from non-communicable diseases declines.

“For those Canadians who are diagnosed with a non-communicable disease, the charities will continue to advocate strongly to ensure they have affordable, timely and equitable access to the support they need to optimally treat and manage their disease,” says Dr Jan Hux, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

The four charities believe that major components of a comprehensive strategy on NCDs are:

  • enhanced investment in prevention for diseases that share common risk factors, with a focus on reducing tobacco use, increasing physical activity, reducing air pollution, improving diets and reducing alcohol consumption;
  • measures to ensure equitable access to affordable and effective drugs, medicines, devices and therapies for the treatment and management of chronic diseases;
  • increased support for family caregivers;
  • increased focus on the full continuum of care, including rehabilitation and palliative care at the end of life;
  • continued and sustained funding for patient-centred research.

“The heavy burden of chronic disease can be reduced,” says Acting CEO and President of the Canadian Lung Association, Mary-Pat Shaw. “But it will require coordinated action on the major risk factors, along with effective treatment and management to improve long-term health for the millions affected in Canada and around the world.”

The four charities also believe it’s important for the federal government to show global leadership by reaching out to support low- and middle-income countries in addressing non-communicable diseases.

Read the common vision statement of the four charities: Call for Action on Chronic Diseases

About the Canadian Diabetes Association
Across the country, the Canadian Diabetes Association is leading the fight against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while we work to find a cure. Our community-based network of supporters help us provide education and services to people living with diabetes, advocate for our cause, break ground towards a cure and translate research into practical applications. Please visit diabetes.ca, join us on facebook.com/CanadianDiabetesAssociation, follow us on Twitter @DiabetesAssoc or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).

About the Canadian Lung Association
Established in 1900, The Lung Association is one of Canada’s oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues. For more information, visit www.lung.ca or call us toll-free at 1-888-566-5864. Join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @canlung.

About the Heart and Stroke Foundation
The Heart and Stroke Foundation (heartandstroke.ca), a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke, reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living and advocacy. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.

For 75 years the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. We have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. When you want to know more about cancer, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Hales

Communications Specialist

Canadian Cancer Society

National office

Phone: 416 934-5338