What are NCDs?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression. NCDs kill more than 38 million people annually, with 82% of NCD deaths in low- and middle- income countries. NCDs have a significant impact on children and adolescents. Children die from treatable NCDs, such as rheumatic heart disease, type 1 diabetes, asthma, and leukemia. Critical prevention opportunities include nutritional status before and during pregnancy, good nutrition and a healthy environment, prevention of injuries, freedom from tobacco and secondhand smoke, prevention of toxic stress and promotion of mental health and healthy development. As a matter of equity, health systems need the capacity to ensure prevention, early diagnosis, and prompt and adequate treatment and rehabilitation for children and adolescents, so as to improve the health and development of all, and maximize opportunities for healthy, productive lives and enjoyment of all human rights.

NCDs & the Global Goals
In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new framework of 17 goals, identified through an expansive global consultation, and applicable to all countries, were adopted by the global community. Goal 3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” builds on the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and adds ambitious new targets. Within Goal 3, four targets are directly related to NCDs:

  • By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
  • Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
  • By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
  • Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

Referencing implementation, four additional targets are related to NCDs:

  • Strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate
  • Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines [...]
  • Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States
  • Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risk.


With these targets in mind, countries and national stakeholders should support a life-course approach to health, which promotes good health and healthy behaviors, prevention, early detection and diagnosis, management, rehabilitation, treatment and care. Data related to NCDs should be reported disaggregated by age and sex to ensure the needs of children and adolescents are considered. Civil Society should advocate for children and youth around NCDs and ensure their countries are putting NCDs as a health priority and are aware of the new Global Goals.