WHA reaches 'breakthrough moment' on diabetes

A person holds a lancing device in front of a blood glucose meter. Photo by: PhotoMIX Company from Pexel

The 74th World Health Assembly has adopted a first-ever resolution that civil society hopes could help “turn the tide on diabetes.”

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The resolution asks the World Health Organization to consider the development of targets and assess the feasibility and value of “establishing a web-based tool to share information relevant to the transparency of markets for diabetes medicines, including insulin, oral hypoglycemic agents and related health products, including information on investments, incentives, and subsidies.”

These are issues that received some push back during member states’ negotiations before the start of the WHA.

Nina Renshaw, policy and advocacy director at NCD Alliance, called it a “breakthrough moment” for global policy action and investment.

“It is [a] vital recognition that governments have not managed to deliver on the target to halt the rise in diabetes, which was agreed in 2013,” she said. “Quite the opposite: global trends are heading dramatically in the opposite direction, with diabetes deaths having risen 70% worldwide since 2000.”

“As we now know, this has put people and communities in harm's way during the pandemic. So it's very welcome that WHO has been asked to consider targets to save lives and prevent life-changing complications, such as amputations, kidney disease, and blindness, and to develop recommendations for how to secure sustainable financing,” she added.

WHO now needs to work with governments, civil society, the private sector, and people living with diabetes to develop those targets and present them for adoption next year, Renshaw said.

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In addition to diabetes, the WHA also adopted resolutions on oral and eye health, and decisions on a road map for noncommunicable diseases, and the NCD Global Coordination Mechanism, which helps convene different stakeholders to find solutions to reduce NCDs. WHO is also developing a proposal for a global action plan to reduce harm from alcohol consumption.

Renshaw hopes these will be integrated into an overarching framework to help governments accelerate action on NCDs and meet Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 that seeks to reduce by one-third premature mortality from NCDs by 2030.

“Several of those require WHO to report back with proposals next year. So 2022 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for NCDs,” she said.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.