Recognising the high burden of NCDs, and the impact of climate and COVID-19 on health and economies in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), WHO, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Government of Barbados co-hosted a high-level technical meeting on NCDs and mental health in January.
The meeting served as a follow up to the virtual WHO SIDS Summit for Health held in July 2021 and will be a precursor to the SIDS ministerial conference on NCDs and mental health due to be held in June 2023.
The SIDS high-level technical meeting looked to engage heads of state and government, ministers of health from the WHO SIDS Member States, as well as technical experts from key regional and sub-regional bodies, partner governments and agencies, civil society, youth, public–private partnerships, and academia.
Objectives of the meeting included:
Discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities to scale up multisectoral actions on NCDs and mental health to promote well-being, as part of the commitments made under the SIDS Health Summit 2021 and the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway.
Present and discuss the WHO NCD Implementation Road Map 2023–2030 and its application in SIDS countries, while considering priorities such as the impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, to accelerate national responses towards SDG target 3.4 on NCDs and mental health.
Share experiences from SIDS countries on multisectoral and multistakeholder strategies, especially on NCDs and mental health as they relate to climate change, health emergencies, the COVID-19 pandemic, obesity prevention and food systems, among others, and to present the feasibility of adapting and applying these experiences in other countries.
Identify key recommendations to be included in the outcome document to be endorsed/adopted by the subsequent SIDS ministerial meeting to scale up action on NCDs and mental health.
To advance the prevention and control of NCDs in SIDS, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), along with SIDS civil society representatives, and supported by NCD Alliance with contributions from World Obesity, developed a discussion paper on NCDs and mental health in the region. The paper is a contribution to the WHO-convened High-Level Technical Meeting and Ministerial Conference that will take place in June 2023.
This discussion paper outlines the unique characteristics of SIDS and the challenges they face, particularly related to: their size, geography, and small populations; constraints for achieving economies of scale due to their small domestic markets, limited resources, and undiversified economies; and threats from the climate crisis and food and nutrition insecurity. For instance, the ten countries with the highest adult obesity prevalence in the world are Pacific SIDS.
In many SIDS, over 80% of the food is imported. This leads to: insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables; greater consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor, ultra-processed products high in sugar, salt, and fats; and ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity. Half of the top 24 countries with the highest prevalence of childhood obesity are SIDS.