UN Proclaims the Potential of mHealth at its General Assembly Session

The United Nations is currently meeting for its 66th session of the General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City. On Monday, September 19, the current President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, called on world leaders to embrace mobile technologies in their efforts towards disease control and prevention.  Speaking at an awards ceremony during the Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, he proclaimed the potential of mHealth towards achieving the goals of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—those of reducing hunger, poverty, maternal and child mortality, and the spread of preventable diseases by 2015. “Indeed, there is growing evidence that the use of these technologies can be a critical component of some aspects of health. I fully believe that information and communications technologies can enable countries to meet the 2015 deadline.”

“Only five years ago, who would have imagined that today a woman in sub-Saharan Africa could use a mobile phone to access health information on bringing her pregnancy safely to term, or that today a young person in the Middle East could use a mobile phone to help manage diabetes” remarked the President.

At the same two-day meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the adoption of a multi-pronged campaign to address the known risk factors that contribute to the four main groups of non-communicable diseases (NCD) – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, and diabetes.  The campaign should address public health efforts to influence the behaviors that contribute to these often preventable diseases, such as smoking, alcohol use, and diet. “Non-communicable diseases are a threat to development….[they] hit the poor and vulnerable particularly hard, and drive them deeper into poverty,” Ki-moon added.

The Secretary-General cited statistics from the World Health Organization that NCDs cause 63% of all deaths, and will increase by 17% worldwide in the next decade—and by 24% in Africa. Al-Nasser commented, “the global community must work together to monitor, reduce exposure to risks, and strengthen health care for people with non-communicable diseases.”  Mobile health will play an important role in the UN’s efforts to prevent, diagnose, and manage the symptoms of these diseases globally, especially in the most vulnerable corners of the developing world.

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