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Finland prevents chronic diseases successfully: Minister

Published : 02 Jun 2018, 02:47

  DF Report

Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila. File Photo Finnish government by Laura Kotila.

Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila on Friday said that Finland has been successful in preventing chronic, noncommunicable diseases by international standards and the work in preventing the chronic diseases will be continued in future.

“Finland has been successful in preventing chronic, noncommunicable diseases by international standards. Risk factors can be addressed, and they are the same in both developed and developing countries. Therefore, we can be an example to other countries with similar problems,” Mattila said in her address at the report launch event in Geneva.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Independent High-level Commission has issued recommendations for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

It calls for urgent action from policy-makers to address the burden of chronic diseases and mental health problems across the globe. The Commission emphasises that successful prevention and control of NCDs require both health and social sector action and broad-based intersectoral collaboration.

NCDs include cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes, among others. In 2015, approximately 40 million people died worldwide from these diseases.

“Although we can set an example to others, we will not be resting on our laurels. Instead, we will continue our work with determination in Finland. Our goal is to further cut the number of premature deaths from chronic diseases and improve patients’ quality of life,” Mattila said.

The minister said that the new global recommendations for preventing NCDs are on the right track in their emphasis on the importance of reducing socio-economic inequalities to prevent NCDs. Socio-economic factors have a great impact on lifestyles, and some lifestyles are associated with a higher risk of disease.

“Each country of course decides itself how it will prevent chronic diseases. Combining soft measures and regulations has worked well for Finland. Our soft measures have included support for workplace catering, health education in schools, and lifestyle guidance for families with children. Examples of harder measures are our excise duties on alcohol, tobacco and soft drinks, which are high by international standards,” Mattila said.

Mattila was appointed to the WHO Independent High-level Commission on NCDs in February this year. President Sauli Niinistö will co-chair the Commission, together with the Heads of State of Uruguay and Sri Lanka. The term of the Commission will continue until October 2019. The Commission will give recommendations and take new initiatives relating to the prevention and control of NCDs.

Monitoring of noncommunicable diseases will be discussed in the UN General Assembly in September 2018, among other forums. Reducing premature deaths from NCDs and promoting mental health are among the objectives of Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.