Norway launches a development stratregy specifically targeting non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

Norway has as the first nation ever launched a development policy which specifically targets non-communicable diseases (NCDs).


The strategy launched in Oslo and is centered around SDG 3.4: Reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030.  The three main focus points of the strategy are: Strengthening primary health care services, prevention of leading risk factors and better management and health information systems.

At the launch of the strategy, it was emphasized by the Norwegian Minister of Health that the strategy is meant as an inspiration and an example to follow for other high income countries. It is his hope that more of them will include NCDs in their development strategies. This view is shared by the Danish NCD Alliance who hope that the initiatives taken in Norway can lead the way for an increased focus on NCDs in Danish development work. The Danish Director of Development Stefan Islandi comments:

“It was a milestone when NCDs got their own SDG target back in 2015. The new Norwegian development strategy that puts NCDs at the centre of the equation is another milestone. Financing for combatting NCDs in developing countries has been and still is largely absent. With its new development strategy Norway is sending a clear message - namely that in a world of many competing priorities - combatting NCDs should be very high on the list. The Danish NCD Alliance should like to congratulate Norway with its achievement and being first movers. We hope that many more countries will follow.”

The strategy should be seen as a response to the major threat which NCDs pose to the global world and especially the African countries. NCDs are currently the cause of 70% of deaths worldwide and specifically in Africa, deaths from NCDs are projected to increase from around 35% to over 50% of total deaths by 2030. To compare, the risks of dying between the age of 30 and 70 from a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer or asthma are 4 times higher in most African countries than in Norway. While the extent of the problem is severe, the fight against NCDs currently only receives 1% of international health assistance since donor funds always primarily have been allocated to communicable diseases like HIV, malaria or tuberculosis.

This is despite the fact that it takes relatively few resources to come a long way in the fight against NCDs. UN Member states did at last year’s High Level meeting on NCDs agree on 16 WHO-recommended Best Buys for preventing and controlling NCDs. These include relatively simple and inexpensive measures such as reduced salt and sugar intake and increasing physical exercise and are built upon the 5x5 five approach. The 5x5 approach captures the five major diseases (cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes, and mental and neurological conditions) and the five major risk factors (unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, and air pollution). It is estimated that if the best buys were implemented, over 8 million lives could be saved annually by 2030 which, according to WHO estimates, would lead to savings of 7 trillion USD in low- and middle-income countries over the next 15 years.