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COVID-19: Bloomberg, WHO seek global focus on noncommunicable diseases

Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder, Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 joined Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in calling for urgent action to tackle noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, which account for over 74% of deaths globally and worsen outcomes of patients with COVID-19.

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg

This comes as WHO confirms that Bloomberg will continue for a third term as WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.

His WHO Ambassador role follows decades of involvement in health policy, including his three terms as mayor of New York City, and a long-standing collaboration with WHO to take on some of the biggest global health challenges. In his role, Bloomberg will continue to raise awareness about the link between COVID-19 and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), advocate for investment in measures to tackle NCDs and injuries, mobilise cities for better health, and support the use of health data to drive programs and policies.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the full danger of noncommunicable diseases – and signaled the urgent need for stronger public health policies and investment to prevent them,” said Dr Tedros. “We urge world leaders in business and government to take aggressive steps to prevent noncommunicable diseases. Fewer NCDs would have meant fewer deaths during the pandemic.”

“The majority of those who have died from COVID-19 had an underlying noncommunicable disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease or cancer. NCDs account for nearly three-quarters of all deaths around the world, and the scale and urgency of the problem was thrown into sharp relief by COVID-19. NCDs can be prevented, and we know what works,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.

“Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working with WHO to reduce tobacco use, support healthier diets, fight cardiovascular disease, and strengthen health data to guide our work. We look forward to expanding our efforts to help more cities and countries take action on NCDs and to save lives,” Bloomberg added.

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NCDs currently kill over 40 million people every year. These chronic conditions have also increased the death toll from COVID-19, which has already taken over two million lives. People who are obese, who use tobacco, and who have hypertension are at increased risk of being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.

In addition to COVID-19, Bloomberg’s work with WHO and investments more broadly in public health focus on major, life-saving initiatives to reduce tobacco and youth e-cigarette use, support healthy food policy, reduce drowning, and improve road safety and maternal health, among others.

In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with WHO and Vital Strategies to launch the Partnership for Healthy Cities, a network of 70 global cities, covering nearly 300 million people, committed to preventing NCDs and injuries since 2017. Over the past year, it has expanded its support to urban leaders around the world to include the resources and tools to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. 

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After more than 15 years of collaboration, WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies have shared major achievements across public health:

  • 5 billion people covered by at least one strong tobacco control measure
  • 3.3 billion people have benefitted from stronger road safety laws
  • 70 cities covering almost 300 million people, committed to preventing NCDs and injuries

Countries around the world have been supported to strengthen their health data systems through the Data for Health Program. The newly released SCORE Report is the first to gauge countries’ progress in producing sustainable health data. 

WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies say they will continue to drive change in tobacco control, prevention of noncommunicable diseases, road safety, injuries and improving health data. Later this year, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, WHO will launch a new “NCD investment case” outlining the value of investing in policies and interventions to prevent NCDs.

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