Launch of The Inter-American Task Force on NCDs

On the 17th of June, we had the pleasure to attend the launch of a regional initiative towards the fight against non communicable diseases (NCDs). The event took place in the Hall of the Americas in the Organization of the American States (OAS) – a place that has seen multiple historic agreements – the day prior to the 45th OAS General Assembly.

Many organizations have joined their forces for the creation of the Inter-American Taskforce on Noncommunicable diseases: the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the World Bank (WB).

The Task Force acknowledges the enormous social and economic burden posed by NCDs (which are responsible for 80% of all deaths in the Americas) and recognizes that the increasing prevalence of theses diseases is driven by social determinants. It also states that the prevention and control of NCDs mandate a response from the all parts of the governments and of society. The Task Force has committed to engage with relevant sectors of governments and society; to advocate and support the application of universal health coverage and universal access across the region; and to intensify the response to NCDs.

Remarks were made by Dr. Clarissa Etienne, PAHO Director, who has highlighted the importance of a multi-sectoral approach, and by H.E Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, who has mentioned the important aspect of gender vulnerability.

We had the chance to hear from five countries: Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago, who have shared their experiences and best practices in the national fight against NCDs. Brazil discussed the promotion of physical activity in schools, while Jamaica mentioned the strategies used to counter the main risk factors of NCDs, such as alcohol consumption and tobacco. Trinidad and Tobago stated that they intend to increase their political response and has proposed a few ways forward. The most shocking statements came from Mexico, a country in which seven of every then adults suffer from obesity. The country recently approved a law to limit the quantity of sugar in soft drinks. Finally, Panama revealed itself as the most advanced country of the region in tobacco control policies.

The second panel of the day was centered on the remarks from the different organizations of the Inter American task Force on NCDs. It was truly inspiring hearing all this different voices and sectors motivated for one reason, the healthy future of the Americas. As the practice manager for health of the World Bank, Dr. Daniel Dulitzky, said, you need to talk money if you want to save lives so to prove to the ministers of economy that saving lives is the real business.

The very ambitious goal of a 25% reduction in premature NCD mortality by 2025, doesn’t seem as unachievable as before. The multi sectoral work and the leadership from the Pan American Health Organization will bring the Region into a more healthier and sustainable future.

We, IFMSA and its national members organizations, should join efforts with the Inter American Task Force on NCDs in national and local work. It is important to encourage members to take actions and raise awareness on the burden posed by NCDs. We shall work with our communities to promote primary health care, prevention and promotion of health – all at the core of any health system.

Entry written by Maria Jose Cisneros Caceres, IFMSA Regional Coordinator for the Americas

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World Blood Donation Day 2015

As this day marks the Annual Memorial of World Blood Donation Day, we find it fundamental to underline how important it is to have enough safe blood supplies worldwide. This day provides a yearly opportunity to highlight the lifesaving role of voluntary unpaid blood donors and also to thank those donors who give this precious gift to save millions of lives every year.

Of the 108 million blood donations collected globally, approximately half of these are collected in the high-income countries, home to 18% of the world’s population. 75 countries report collecting fewer than 10 donations per 1 000 population. Of these, 40 countries are in WHO’s African Region, 8 in the Americas, 7 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 6 in Europe, 6 in South-Eastern Asian and 8 in the Western Pacific. All are low- or middle-income countries.

World Blood Donor Day 2015 launch will be hosted in Shanghai, China at the Shanghai Blood Centre, which is also the WHO Collaborating Centre for Blood Transfusion Services in China. The focus of the 2015 campaign is “Thank you for saving my life“. It encourages donors all over the world to donate blood voluntarily and regularly with the slogan “Give freely, give often. Blood donation matters.” Watch this promotional video

“The best way to guarantee a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products for transfusion is to have a good supply of regular donations by voluntary unpaid blood donors,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “WHO encourages all Member States to obtain all their blood supplies from such donors.”

On this day, IFMSA and particularly SCOPH joins its voice with the World  to raise the awareness on how important it is to have a Safe Blood Supply , to help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions to live longer and maintaining a higher quality of life, supporting complex medical and surgical procedures and preventing thousands of maternal death cases per year.

One of the most feasible tools that could make your campaigns sustainable in the long run, to guarantee population adherence for the concept of blood donation, is to implement or advocate to implement a system that allows donors to know when their blood has been used to save a life. Read more about it in this article

Spread the Word. Educate People on how crucial it is to have a blood supply, raise your voice, Donate if you can, induce a change.

Entry written by Hani Hafez, SCOPH Regional Assistant for the EMR
On Behalf of the SCOPH International Team 2014-15

[WHA68] Statement On Air Pollution

Statement made on May 26th 2015 during the 68th World Health Assembly on Item 14.6: Health and the environment: addressing the health impact of air pollution

IFMSA welcomes the draft resolution on air pollution.

As the doctors of tomorrow, we are deeply concerned about the unhealthy environments in which our future patients are most likely to live in, if no ambitious actions are taken today.

This resolution has the potential of improving health of population around the world.

The time for ambitions is today. As said several times, air pollution is causing one of eight deaths annually around the globe, making it one of the largest killer. If not a strong resolution is adopted today, we are leaving behind seven million people.

The causes of air pollution are also driving climate change, and we welcome references to climate within the resolution.

Stronger connections shall be made with NCDs. Health co-benefits of climate change adaptation and mitigation policies, including those with considerations for air quality, can positively tackle the risk factors of NCDs and promote active lifestyles.

We will be facing the consequences of the decisions taken today and the policies that are being implemented. As young people we are hopeful of a greener, healthier future, but we need your political will to make this happen.

If we keep falling behind our mandate, it will be impossible for us to fulfill our responsibilities as health professionals and to protect populations’ health.

We are calling on the healthcare sector lead by example, and adopt a stronger stance of divestment.

A strong resolution on air pollution will be a supportive tool to stimulate actions and considerations for health in upcoming UNFCCC negotiations; as reducing air pollution being one of the main co-benefits to be generated by climate action.

We call for all member states to stand strong behind a resolution on air pollution, to support WHO in it’s work addressing this issue and to take action nationally to create a healthier environment.