The Inter-American Task Force is urging Caribbean countries to improve their prevention and control programmes so as to lessen the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Inter-American Task Force on NCDs – which includes the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the World Bank – pledged in a joint statement on non-communicable diseases and COVID-19, to collaborate closely on the issue.
“Cost-effective solutions exist for the prevention and control of NCDs. However, slow action by countries in the region to implement these interventions is now contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic and may lead to long-term consequences if existing policies are further weakened,” the agencies said in their joint statement.
“As we reconstruct and transform our economies, our social protection and health systems post COVID-19, we need to pay critical attention to the prevention, early diagnosis and management of non-communicable diseases.”
The task force said underlying NCDs and associated risk factors, such as tobacco smoking, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, “lead to severe cases of COVID-19 and increased likelihood of death, particularly affecting vulnerable groups of all ages, and are underpinned by the principal social determinants of health”.
The task force said that effective action to control these NCDs “requires an approach across government sectors, as well as civil society driven multi-sectoral approaches”, to support measures that can reduce risk factors for NCDs.
But the statement noted that “such measures usually face strong opposition from industries involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution and sale of harmful products, such as tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and ultra-processed foods.
According to PAHO, the task force agreed on a series on measures that include promoting policies to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; working together to respond to COVID-19; and, in the post-pandemic period, to strengthen NCD risk factor policies and improve the health system response for NCDs.
PAHO said other measures were to foster policy and regulatory interventions in support of health protection; reduction of NCD risk factors; health care services that are equitable, accessible and affordable; and to advocate for sustainable, health-promoting food systems in the post-COVID-19 regional and national responses.