On 10 April, former Coordinator of Health Promotion with the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tang Kwok-Cho visited UIC campus to give a talk on non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention and control.


Dr Tang’s prior assignments with the WHO included being technical lead of the WHO Global Programme on Health Promotion Effectiveness, principal author of the WHO Framework for Country Action Across Sectors for Health and Health Equality, and a core team writer for the 2010 Global Status Reports on NCDs, among others.

Dr Tang was eager to share his experience in managing NCDs, and urged for students to get involved in reducing the prevalence of these diseases. NCDs include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease, which all share the commonality that they are often preventable, and caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Throughout his presentation, Dr Tang stressed the importance of reducing dependency on smoking, alcohol and unhealthy diets, and trying to increase physical activity and live a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid these often fatal diseases.

The reason Dr Tang has dedicated his life to promoting the prevention and control of these diseases is that he has seen the global reach they have, and knows that it is possible to reduce their prevalence. In 2012, NCDs were responsible for over 68% (38 million) of all deaths worldwide, many being premature deaths. These affect those living in developing countries in addition to those of lower socio-economic status more dramatically.

Dr Tang wanted to then focus on the NCD burden in China, highlighting that over 50% of Chinese men smoke. His research has shown that NDC’s will peak around the year 2040 when young people are coming into their 40’s. Dr Tang then began to discuss the reasons that young people smoke, and how this can be combatted. He highlighted a key reason being the advertising young people see which makes them think smoking is a fun activity that will make them more popular, and advertisements make it seem less harmful than it actually is. Peer influence also plays a big role.


Dr Tang advocated for UIC students to try and create promotional campaigns that promote less smoking and drinking, making abstinence the new ‘cool’. He discussed some previous campaigns that have been successful in other countries, including implementing vegetable gardening into schools to increase healthy diets of the students.

The discussion then shifted to what the WHO has advised for the prevention and control of NCDs, with Dr Tang highlighting the ‘9 voluntary global targets’ WHO has put in place. These include limiting alcohol, sodium, and tobacco intake, as well as increasing affordability of medicines.

During the question and answer period, audience member inquired into how this knowledge could be turned into action, especially in developing countries. Dr Tang elaborated that the more we learn from research and the science can slowly lead to a cultural change over time. This can be enacted through social and political actions, which can increase the rate at which culture will change to reduce dependency on the very things that are killing us.

Reporter: Samantha Burns
Photographer: Ivy Liao
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)