UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases

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The UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) is approaching quickly, taking place in New York City on September 19-20, 2011. This meeting represents the second time in UN history that the General Assembly will convene with world leaders to take action on a devastating global health issue. (The first UN High Level Meeting was in 2001 for developing a global strategy to tackle HIV/AIDS) Since NCDs have not received as much press as more high profile infectious diseases, the questions on many people’s minds are: Why NCDs? Why now?

First of all, what are NCDs? NCDs are non-transmissible diseases that are usually chronic and slow-progressing. This category includes diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and more. In the past few decades, the focus of global health NGOs and the receivers of much donor aid have been governments, institutions, and organizations battling infectious diseases through public health programs, research, and policy change. Program guidelines have been set in place to address epidemics quickly and efficiently, and scientific research is accelerating to discover new vaccines for common killers. In comparison, there is no such routine for NCDs.NCDs account for 63% of deaths worldwide and though they were previously thought to be diseases plaguing the first world, we now know that close to 90% of NCD deaths under the age of 60 occur in low and middle income countries.
ncd_tree.gifWhy now? As countries around the world are becoming more industrialized, populations are increasingly exposed to risk factors for NCDs, such as tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy diets. An upcoming report examining the cost of inaction (will link to this once it is published at a later time) reveals the tremendous economic setbacks NCDs will cause countries through medical expenditures and reduction in capital formation through workforce and productivity loss. If we do not take action now to implement public health programs and policy changes to cut down on risk factor exposure, we will face an economic disaster in the upcoming years.

The UN High Level Meeting in September will address 4 key NCDs: COPD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. At the meeting, world leaders will discuss what can be done to protect their populations from common risk factors for these diseases. For more information, please visit:http://www.who.int/nmh/events/un_ncd_summit2011/en/index.html

The following is a “call to action” video for which I helped draft a release plan. Please watch and repost to Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform of choice!

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