Public Health (Non-communicable Disease)

The WUN Public Health Global Challenge emphasizes a life-course approach to opportunities for addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) especially in low and middle income countries and transitioning populations but also in developed societies where there are social disparities in risk. This focus is based on substantial evidence for the inextricable linkage between maternal, perinatal, infant, childhood factors and adult lifestyle factors that accumulate and contribute to the risk of developing NCDs later in life. It is recognised that some non-communicable diseases are linked to communicable disease and some have genetic predisposing factors.

Particular attention will be paid to both population- and individual-based approaches to increase access to education, to promote nutritional and health literacy and physical activity in children, adolescents and parents and to empowering women to reduce the burden of NCDs, to promote healthy ageing and to provide other benefits such as gender equality and promoting neurocognitive capacities.

The importance of socio-demographic and environmental factors underlies the importance of links with ongoing global initiatives, in particular the UN Sustainable Development Goals announced in 2015, which highlights the importance of the environment for good maternal and child health, food security, climate change and health system responses to global public health.

Focus of the WUN Public Health Global Challenge in 2016-17 

1.  Lifecourse approach to healthy ageing

This is an overarching theme which will draw on the areas 2-4 below. Ageing populations and the concomitant growing burden of non-communicable disease are high on the agenda for health and social policy. WUN responds to this by bringing to bear its considerable strengths in lifecourse approaches. What are the early-life indicators of healthy ageing and what interventions can be introduced at an early age (childhood, adolescence, pre-conception, pregnancy, post-partum) to ensure healthy outcomes in later life?

2.  Health of migrants across the lifecourse

How does migration affect the health and wellbeing of families? This theme includes ageing, non-communicable disease, mental health and the economic impact of migration as a determinant of health outcomes for both migrants and family members who are left behind.

3.  The resilience of adolescents and health workers in different cultural contexts

The term "resilience" is used to mean positive adaptation to significant adversity in the context of a particular population or culture. This theme addresses the biological, social-ecological and psychological resources associated with resilience with a particular focus on two groups: young people and health workers. It includes how resilience compares in young people from different cultures, and the factors that contribute to their resilience; and why and how formal and informal health professionals adjust positively to occupational adversity across time. It also relates to issues of resilience in ageing.  

4.  Schools as a setting for reducing risk factors associated with NCDs

How can interventions in schools help to effectively reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases? This theme includes identification, implementation and measurement of best practice to support the development of sustained health behaviours through curriculum-based, policy-based and public health messaging interventions in a wide range of social, cultural, geographic and economic contexts.

Steering Group

The Public Health Global Challenge Steering Group is made up of experts in the field from across the network. The Steering Group is responsible for guiding the development, focus and research portfolio of the global challenge. 

Global Challenge Chair: Professor Anne Christine Johannessen, Vice Rector for International Affairs, The University of Bergen -

For more information, contact: Bjorn Erik Andersen -  

WUN Shanghai Declaration

At the 2011 WUN Public Health Global Challenge Conference, the WUN Shanghai Declaration on Early Life Opportunities for Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases was adopted. This declaration was fed into the agenda of the WHO and national governments, and had a significant role in influencing the content of the 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCDs with issues relating to women’s health, pregnancy, health literacy and research partnerships.