Road traffic injury and NCDs on agenda in high level meetings at WHO
Zoleka Mandela, Global Ambassador for the Child Health Initiative, met with World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to discuss the impact of road traffic on child health, ahead of speaking at the launch of the first report of the Independent High Level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
In the meeting with Dr Tedros; Dr Svetlana Akselrod, WHO Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health; Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, Chef de Cabinet; and Dr Etienne Krug, Director, Management of NCDs, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention; Zoleka Mandela described her personal tragedy in losing her daughter Zenani in a road traffic crash in 2010, and her own battle with cancer. Together with FIA Foundation Executive Director Saul Billingsley she briefed the WHO team on the new Child Health Initiative report, ‘Unfinished Journey: The Global Health Response to Children & Road Traffic’, and discussed the need to better integrate action on road safety, air pollution and NCDs into mainstream child health policies for the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the launch of the report of the Independent High Level Commission on NCDs at WHO Headquarters on Friday 2nd June, Zoleka Mandela joined the President of Uruguay Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, Commission Chair Sania Nishtar and Dr Tedros on the panel of speakers. She described her personal fight against cancer and called on the international community to do more to tackle NCDs and the impact of road traffic injuries.
The High Level Commission report makes recommendations for political leadership in advance of a crucial UN summit in September, arguing that the response to the NCD epidemic requires a whole of government approach, rather than being seen only as a health issue, and identifying priority interventions. For example, in its first recommendation, the Commission calls for political leaders to ‘take steps to improve traffic, reduce air pollution, create green spaces…improve infrastructure to make roads safer, including the construction of pedestrian and cycle paths, and to encourage physical activity…’ as part of wider approach to tackling tobacco and alcohol use and reducing availability of unhealthy foods.
Zoleka Mandela announced her support for the NCD Alliance ‘Enough NCDs’ campaign and told the event: “We need stronger commitment and action from our leaders to improve our health systems in order to achieve better health outcomes for all, to no longer ignore the health burden that continues to destroy the lives of millions, and of our innocent children around the world. Our leaders need to take decisive action to prevent and control non-communicable diseases so that lives are saved. I am joining the campaign and I am saying Enough! to non-communicable diseases. Enough to these preventable epidemics – both NCDs and road traffic injury. We can and we must defeat them. For our health, our future, and the future of our children, we must not fail.”
Also speaking at the NCD launch event Dr Tedros thanked Zoleka Mandela for her commitment to the cause. “Your passion is infectious. You are following in your grandfather’s footsteps, you are courageous and a fighter. I look forward to working closely with you.”