Public Release: 

UN Member States jeopardize international progress on non-communicable disease epidemic

European Association for the Study of the Liver

Geneva, 23rd August 2011 - The fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and liver disease, is at grave risk, because of recent efforts by some countries to stall and weaken critical United Nations negotiations, the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) warned today.

In a letter addressed to Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Dr Margaret Chan and Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, EASL called on them to personally push for progress at the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases, scheduled for 19󈞀 September in New York.

"The situation is urgent," said Prof. Mark Thursz, Secretary General of EASL. "Sound proposals for clear goals and timelines to tackle devastating diseases, including liver disease, are being systematically deleted, diluted and downgraded by some member states. Urgent action is needed now to put the negotiations back on track."

NCDs are the leading cause of death worldwide each year, causing 36 million deaths in 2008 and accounting for 63 per cent of all global deaths (1). Over the next 20 years, the NCD epidemic is projected to accelerate exponentially, putting enormous strain on families, health systems and economies.

In Europe alone, 86% of all deaths are caused by chronic non-communicable diseases with up to 80% of health-care expenses being allocated to them. What is worse is the fact that the majority of chronic non-communicable diseases can be prevented.

Liver disease is estimated to affect 6% of the EU's population (approx. 29 million people) and is reported to be the EU's 5th biggest killer, accounting for at least one in six deaths. In 2004, the mortality rate for chronic liver diseases was estimated at 14.3 per 100.000 in the EU-25. This means that more than 70,000 Europeans are dying from chronic liver diseases every year. Even more worrying is the fact that the EU statistics do not cover all disease of the liver in one category, e.g. alcohol abuse related deaths and liver cancer are treated separately. Therefore, the actual rate of deaths from liver diseases is certainly much higher than the statistics suggest.

And yet, says EASL, the NCD epidemic could be effectively addressed through the reduction of risk factors - principally tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol - as well as early detection and timely treatments.

"We have a unique and historic opportunity to change the course of this ticking time bomb and stop millions of people around the world suffering unnecessary pain and hardship", said Prof. Dominique-Charles Valla, EASL's EU Policy Councillor. "To do that, we need governments to agree and act on a common goal."

EASL is calling on the High Level Meeting to agree on:

  • An overarching goal to reduce preventable deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025
  • A clear timeline for tackling the epidemic of major NCDs, including liver disease
  • A set of specific, evidence-based targets and global indicators
  • A high-level collaborative initiative of governments and UN agencies with civil society to stimulate and assess progress.


Contact details: Margaret Walker, EASL Director of EU Public Affairs, Mobile number: + 41 79 946 15 49

Notes to Editor:

About Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

NCDs are now the leading cause of death worldwide each year, causing 36 million deaths in 2008 and accounting for 63 per cent of all global deaths. NCDs also account for half of all global disability, including blindness and amputations, imposing huge costs on families, healthcare systems, businesses and national economies. The burden of death and disability attributable to NCDs is rising everywhere due to changing patterns in the way we live and work. The greatest increase will be in low- and middle-income countries, contributing to poverty and becoming a major barrier to development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The World Economic Forum's 2010 Global Risks Report identifies NCDs as the second most severe threat to the global economy and a global risk equal in cost to the current global financial crisis.

The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)

EASL is the leading liver association in Europe. EASL attracts the foremost hepatology experts as members and has an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education, and promoting changes in European liver policy. EASL believes the EU has a key role to play in raising awareness of liver disease in Europe, increasing additional funding for research, setting standards and guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of liver disease across the EU and encourage member states to make liver disease a public health and research priority. For more information please visit

About the UN High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs

The NCD Alliance originated the call for the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which will be held in New York on 19󈞀 September 2011. This High-Level Meeting will be attended by Heads of State and Government from around the world, and is an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that NCDs become central to the long-term global development agenda, to generate high-level and sustained political commitments for a coordinated global response to NCDs; and to increase resources for NCDs and save millions from debilitating health complications. A Political Declaration issued at the end of the meeting will guide future action on NCDs globally.


(1) World Health Organization, Global Status Report on non-communicable diseases 2010, last accessed on 15 August 2011

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