On Friday, November 22nd, Norway launched the strategy «Better Health, Better Lives»(pdf).

The goal of the strategy is to combat so-called non-communicable diseases through our development funds.

  • Over 70 percent of deaths in the world are caused by non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung diseases and mental health conditions. Yet, only 1 percent of the development assistance for health is dedicated to fight these diseases. This cannot go on, says Anne Lise Ryel, secretary general of the Norwegian Cancer Society.

These diseases lead to enormous suffering and haunt people when they are at their most productive age. And as always, it is the poorest that are affected the most.

A human right, but not a given right

Access to a well working health system of good quality is a human right, but there are still too many people in the world who lack health services. We must therefore continue to work for universal health coverage for all.

– If you get cancer in Norway, you are blessed with modern world-class treatment. It is easy to forget that this is not the case for people in all parts of the world. Cancer treatment is expensive.

The turn around

In developing countries with poorly developed health services, the scale of non-communicable diseases is one of the major causes that inhibits further growth. We must reverse this.

– The Norwegian Cancer Society has long been advocating for the Norwegian authorities to prioritize funding for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, to reflect the shift in global disease burden, says Ryel, adding:

– Our development funds are meant to assist low- and middle-income countries to build their own sustainable societies. But this is to no avail if the disease burden and premature deaths are hindering people from getting education, work and contribute to society. Therefore, the world is totally dependent on using the global development funds smarter.

In Norway the civil society has been instrumental in building the welfare state. Non governmental organisations have engaged in preventive work and taken care of sick people. They have trained nurses and health personnel, contributed with raising awareness and spreading health information.

Through their engagement they have put pressure on authorities so that strong market actors such as tobacco and alcohol industry have been heavily regulated. This success has to be brought forward in our efforts for others.



  • Non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes and mental health disorders, cause more than 70% of all deaths worldwide.
  • Key risk factors include: tobacco use, air pollution, harmful alcohol use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diets with too much salt, sugar and trans fat/saturated fat.
  • The proportion of NCD-related deaths before the age of 70, is highest in low- and middle-income countries. This is also where we see the fastest rate of increase in overall NCD mortality.