Non-communicable disease (NCD)-primarily heart and stroke disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes-caused an estimated 35 million deaths in 2005, 80% of which occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). By 2030, 8 of 10 leading causes of death will be linked to these conditions. The burden of NCDs poses serious implications for social and economic development worldwide but particularly for LAMICs. WHO and member states have developed a clear vision represented by the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and an implementation plan to tackle this epidemic, incorporating lessons learned from international experience and the work of WHO in member states. The 2008 NCD Action Plan, which advocates an integrated approach to NCD prevention and control, with emphasis on the role of primary health care, is based on current scientific knowledge, available evidence and a review of international experience. It comprises a set of actions to tackle the growing public-health burden imposed by NCDs. For the plan to be implemented successfully, high-level political commitment and the concerted involvement of governments, communities and health-care providers are required; in addition, public-health policies will need to be reoriented and allocation of resources improved.