UN Task Force on NCDs and mental health mobilized more than USD 50 million during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly– 21 September 2022

UN Task Force on NCDs and mental health mobilized more than USD 50 million during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly– 21 September 2022

ver 350 participants joined this year’s “Friends of the Task Force” side event “on the margins” of the high-level week of the United Nations General Assembly, organized by Uruguay and WHO. As countries continue to building back after more than two years of the pandemic, discussions mainly focused on the urgent need to mobilize resources to tackle the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health conditions, including through the Health4Life (the UN NCD and mental health multi partner trust fund, established by WHO, UNDP and UNICEF). The work of the Task Force over the last year was highlighted, including scaling up digital health solutions in countries to promote health and improve healthcare.  

Professor Jeremy Lauer of Unexia, an innovative global health financing mechanism announced its commitment to raise USD 50 million for the Health4Life Fund saying: “Unexia will bring catalytic financing to our global health partners who can connect our funding to proven interventions done by local implementors. In countries, by countries and for countries.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, called on Member States to refocus their efforts on the prevention and management of NCDs and mental health conditions: “In the last few years, many countries have lost momentum, and premature deaths from NCDs are increasing. It’s time to get back on track.”

He urged Member States and development partners to contribute to the Health4Life trust fund, to provide catalytic grants for low- and middle-income countries to scale up action on NCDs and mental health: “The Fund provides the best opportunity to support a One-UN response to NCDs and mental health toward country-led action. I urge Member States and development partners to contribute.”

Dr Tedros praised the Task Force for the work it undertakes in countries, including through joint missions, investment cases and advice on health taxes.

Dr Miguel Asqueta, Director General in the Ministry of Health of Uruguay, described the creation of the new Health4Life Fund as a “milestone in the global response to NCDs and mental health problems”. Uruguay is a founding strategic partner of the Fund, along with Kenya and Thailand. Dr Asqueta underscored that without sufficient financing, NCDs will continue to put the development of countries at risk, adding to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Gulnara Baatyrova, Minister of Health of Kyrgyzstan, described the achievements of her country in the field of digital health and highlighted the impact of the work undertaken in Kyrgyzstan by the Task Force: “The joint programming mission led by the Task Force provided important insights and recommendations to strengthen Kyrgyzstan’s multisectoral response to NCDs”, and requested support from the Task Force in developing national mental health and digital health investment cases, as well as support with shaping soda tax.

Dr Jalila bint Sayed Jawed Hassan, Minister of Health of Bahrain, reported on Bahrain’s progress in the area of tobacco control and emphasized the value of the multisectoral coordination mechanism created to focus on the prevention and control of NCDs. She highlighted the importance of the recent NCD investment case.

Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, called on Member States, foundations, and other development partners to make the Health4Life Fund a success: “The Health4Life Fund is at the forefront of innovation in inclusive health financing in an evolving global health landscape. UNICEF calls on all member states, foundations, and other development partners to join us in making the Health4Life Fund achieve its immense potential.” 

Sulaiman Aldakheel, the General Manager of the Gulf Health Council, took stock of the impressive achievements made by the GCC countries over the past years, including establishing national NCD Committees, implementing nutritional information on food labelling, adopting tobacco control strategies such as plain packaging and excise taxation, and setting specific NCD-related goals in the National Executive Plans for NCDs. He emphasized GHC’s partnership with the Task Force: “The partnership with the UN Inter-Agency Task Force has been impactful and progressive for all GCC countries, and we look forward to future joint efforts in continuous projects.”

Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support described the Health4Life Fund as an important mechanism for ensuring stronger coordination and partnerships across the UN system to effectively support Member States in scaling action on NCDs and mental health: “UNDP is proud to have partnered with WHO and UNICEF to establish the Health4Life Fund. We are committed to seeing that it is sufficiently resourced to realize its full potential for countries and communities.”

Dr Marcelo Queiroga, the Minister of Health of Brazil, highlighted Brazil’s actions to tackle obesity through the National Strategy for the Prevention and Care of Childhood Obesity, Proteja. Proteja aims to halt the rise of childhood obesity and to improve the health and nutrition of children, through intersectoral actions that promote healthier cities for Brazilian children and families. The Minister welcomed the creation of the Health4Life Fund, appreciating its holistic approach to addressing NCDs.

Dr Adriana Blanco Marquizo, the Head of Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, reminded the meeting of the importance of evidence to show the damage done by NCDs — both to individuals and to wider society — and the extraordinary benefits that can come from government action.  

The meeting also heard from Ingunn Vatne, from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Hauwa Ojeifo, a powerful mental health advocate from Nigeria. 

Dr Michael Howell from Google described the areas in which private companies such as Google contribute to improving NCD outcomes: “We believe that information is a determinant of health, and so we focus on helping people in their daily lives – to find the best information.”

Ravi Bhatnagar from Reckitt Foundation announced their commitment to partner with the Task Force in improving access to health information and promoting digital health technologies for NCDs at the regional and country level.

Glen Weyl from RadicalxChange Foundation described innovative funding mechanisms, blockchains and the new ways of supporting public health goods. Harnessing innovative financing such as decentralized crowd-oriented intelligence is particularly relevant for the Task Force and for the Health4Life Fund.

The meeting also saw 18 organizations as winners of the 2022 Task Force awards, the fifth year that the scheme has been run. This year the awards were run jointly between the Task Force and the WHO Special Programme on Primary Health Care.


  • This was the ninth meeting of the ‘Friends’ of the Task Force’. Meetings are held annually in the margins of the UN General Assembly high-level week. 
  • This meeting allows partners to be updated on the work of the Task Force and chart action for the coming year. 
  • The Health4Life Fund was established in 2021. It is calling for USD 250 million in order to enable countries drive forward cross-sectoral action on NCDs and mental health. 
  • This year’s meeting, ‘Mobilizing resources and technical support with and for Member States to deliver the NCD and mental health-related Sustainable Development Goal targets’, was chaired by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General and Dr Miguel Asqueta, Director General from the Ministry of Health of Uruguay; and co-sponsored by Luxembourg, the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the International Development Law Organization. 
  • The following spoke at the meeting: Miguel Asqueta, Director General, Ministry of Health of Uruguay; Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General; Hauwa Ojeifo, Advocate for Mental Health; Gulnara Baatyrova, Minister of Health, Kyrgyzstan; Jalila bint Sayed Jawed Hassan, Minister of Health, Bahrain; Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF; Sulaiman Saleh Al-Dakheel, General Manager, Gulf Health Council;  Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support; Marcelo Queiroga, Minister of Health, Brazil; Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; Ingunn Vatne, Deputy Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway; Hans Kluge, Regional Director, WHO Europe; Michael Howell, Chief Clinical Officer, Google; Glen Weyl, Founder, RadicalxChange Foundation; Jeremy Lauer, Professor and Founder of Unexia; Ravi Bhatnagar, Director for External Affairs and Partnerships, Reckitt Foundation; Suraya Dalil, Director of Special Programme on Primary Health Care, WHO; and Alexey Kulikov, UN Inter-Agency Task Force Secretariat. Moderators were Svetlana Akselrod, Director WHO Global NCD Platform; and Nick Banatvala, Head of the Task Force Secretariat. 



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