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An Advisory Steering Group for the new Pan American Forum for Action on Noncommunicable Diseases (PAF-NCD) is meeting today (Feb 29) at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to map out a plan for tackling the growing epidemic of chronic diseases in the Americas through multi-sector partnerships.


The Pan American Forum is a coalition of public, private and civil society partners created recently by PAHO with support from the World Economic Forum, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. It was announced formally by PAHO Director Mirta Roses during the United Nations High-Level Summit on Noncommunicable Diseases (UNHLM) in New York last September. The forum's objective is to promote awareness and prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other NCDs, which are the leading causes of death throughout the Western Hemisphere.

"We have a lot of talent and competencies represented here, from governments, civil society, the business community, international organizations," said Dr. Roses. "All this talent is necessary for taking joint action to face the epidemic of chronic diseases."

Dr. Roses noted that chronic disease advocacy efforts in the Americas have already helped raise global awareness of the problem, through a proposal made by Caribbean countries that led to the recent UNHLM. "This forum will provide a multi-sector response to this problem," she said.

The Pan American Forum will engage in dialog, advocacy and resource mobilization to reduce risk factors for NCDs, especially tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol. The forum supports the implementation of WHO's Global Strategy on NCDs, which emphasizes population-wide approaches. These include "public health best buys" such as tax increases on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, reductions in salt content, the elimination of trans-fats in processed foods, and improved screening for cervical cancer, and counseling and medication for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Participants in this week's PAF-NCD Advisory Steering Group meeting include representatives of the International Food and Beverage Alliance, the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industries, Medtronic, the New York Academy of Medicine, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the ministries of health of Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago.

PAF-NCD will hold its first forum-wide meeting in Brasilia on May 9, 2012.