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CEO Perspective

Spotlight: COVID-19 Deaths Also Rooted in NCD Epidemic

A kiosk in a smoke-free zone in Bengaluru, India. The Partnership for Healthy Cities works with the city of Bengaluru to support the enforcement of smoke-free laws such as advertising bans.

Every year, 41 million people die from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, lung disease and cancer. These account for seven out of every 10 deaths worldwide, with deeply inequitable impact—more than 80% occur in countries with high levels of poverty. This is a crisis that governments and civil society have too long accepted as inevitable. In most cases, NCDs are preventable, if we only have the will to address their drivers by creating and strengthening policies that prioritize health—from food and alcohol policy to tobacco control and air quality improvement. 

COVID-19 has thrust NCDs into the spotlight, as comorbidity from NCDs are driving pandemic deaths. In addition, because of attention paid to the emergency of the pandemic, NCDs are going untreated and undiagnosed and action against them has been deprioritized.  

We can’t realize our best, healthiest future without sustained focus on prevention and addressing NCDs. Over the past year, even as Vital Strategies supported governments responding to COVID-19, we continued our core mission promoting policies, developing communication campaigns, and publishing research that advanced work against NCDs. We’re proud to have contributed to victories such as the passage of new tobacco control policies that will cover hundreds of millions of people, publishing a landmark study of the leading sources of air pollution in Jakarta, and supporting Brazil in the successful passage of a new front-of-package labeling standard for food products.

And into 2021, as we help countries rebuild and strengthen their health systems in the wake of COVID-19, we will continue to push for progress. 

—José Luis Castro 
President and CEO, Vital Strategies 

We’ve curated some of our related videos, statements, reports and blogs.

What To Watch  

VitalTalks: Putting Money to Work to Prevent NCDs

Watch all of our VitalTalks  

Expert Focus 

Governments’ Alcohol Subsidies are Harmful to Public Health (Nandita Murukutla and Rebecca Perl, STAT Op-Ed) 

How Turkey’s Game Changing Legislation Delivers Powerful Free Airtime for Anti-Tobacco Campaigns 

Air Pollution: Why Focus on Cities?  

CEO Perspective  

Reimagining Public Health (Health Policy Watch) 

“On World Cancer Day, we urge governments to implement simple, proven, lifesaving policies that help make the healthy choice the easy choice for people.”

Heart Disease is Preventable: Global Leaders Must Prioritize Response 

Remarks from a panel discussion at WHO’s meeting on NCDs in Oman 

Global Policy 

Press Room: Vital Strategies welcomes the appointment of Michael R. Bloomberg as the WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs 

Case Study: Lessons from South Africa’s Campaign for a Tax on Sugary Beverages 

Reforming WHO, Health as Security, NCDs, and Vaccines: Four Issues COVID Impacted at the World Health Assembly 

Urban Health

Five Investments in Urban Health that Made Cities Stronger in 2020 

Meet Seven Women Leading the Fight Against NCDs and Road Injuries In Their Cities 

Vital Stories

Dirty Money and Shady Spending: How the Tobacco Industry Gets its Way (STOP blog) 

Improving Understanding of Cancer to Improve Prevention and Treatment: The Role of Population-Based Cancer Registries 

Research Insights Shape a Novel Public Campaign on the E-Cigarette Ban in India 


Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 

The Sobering Truth: Incentivizing Alcohol Death and Disability  

Toward Clean Air in Jakarta- Improving Air Quality in the Near- and Long-Term 

What’s In Our Food: A guide to introducing effective front-of-package nutrient labels 

Communication About Air Pollution During COVID-19 (Fact Sheet)  

Smoking and COVID-19 (Fact Sheet) 

Through the Smokescreen: Public Knowledge and Attitudes About Air Quality and its Health Impacts in India