“As world leaders make their way to New York this month to attend the United Nations General Assembly, we call on them to renew their commitments to combating non-communicable diseases (NCDs),” Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, and Nalini Saligram, founder of Arogya World, write in the Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “Tackling NCDs with a woman-centered focus is a critical step towards reaching all development goals.” They continue, “The solution to curbing NCDs and maternal mortality ultimately rests in improving women’s access to strong and capable health systems.” In addition, “[t]eaching women about NCD prevention by promoting healthy lifestyles will result in women not only changing their own lives, but also steer their families and entire communities towards healthy living,” they state, adding, “Educated and empowered women can work to build a healthier, more sustainable world and lift families out of poverty.” Finally, “[i]t’s also important to look at new solutions and technologies,” including clean cookstoves, Sheffield and Saligram write.
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
“The non-communicable disease [NCD] community always talks about the importance of prevention; many consider it the Holy Grail in the fight against NCDs. Why was it so hard to also accept treatment as part of the solution?” Princess Dina Mired, director general of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Amman, Jordan, asks in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, noting only one target of the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs “deals with treatment, the target on ‘essential medicines and basic technologies for treatment.'” She continues, “Treatment and prevention are heavily interrelated. The success of one is directly related to the other.” She adds, “A person in the developing world will not buy in to the importance of prevention if there is no treatment option available should that person get the disease.”
Noting that “[n]on-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill four times the number of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that they do in high-income countries,” Benn Grover, a health communications specialist who manages policy for the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Felicia Knaul, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, write in the Huffington Post Blog, “The right to health of the majority of the world’s inhabitants is severely hampered due to vast inequalities in access to care and many of the social rights that determine their health. These inequalities are not just a matter of health, but issues of social justice and human rights.”
On the one-year anniversary of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), two blogs examine what has happened since. In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the center, and Laura Khan of Princeton University ask, “[W]here has the attention and commitment to NCDs gone?” They say “subsequent attention and action after the NCD Summit last year has been paltry,” and they explore some reasons why this might be the case (9/19). In an interview on the Council on Foreign Relations blog, Thomas Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development, says, “So on one hand, the U.N. NCD meeting hasn’t yet managed to follow the HIV/AIDS blueprint in producing a groundswell of popular support, new donor resources, and concrete country action. On the other hand, optimists on this issue believe the U.N. meeting elevated a long-neglected cause to the heads-of-state level and firmly established it as an ongoing concern for the U.N.” (Johnson, 9/19).
Noting this week marks the first anniversary of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), a Lancet editorial states, “The meeting was a crucial step for putting diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease high on the global health agenda. However, little action, other than more talking, has been taken since.” The editorial continues, “The key positive development of the past year was the goal to reduce preventable deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025 passed by the World Health Assembly in May,” but “[t]he challenge now is how to meet it.”
“If left unaddressed, [non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.” He continues, “The 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs — only the second time the U.N. had convened a major meeting on a health issue, following the U.N. AIDS Summit in June 2001 — was a landmark event in the short history of the fight against NCDs but was not a tipping point. Much more remains to be done.”
The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).
The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).
This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.
Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley examines why children have been excluded from WHO targets on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” writing, “Children die from cancer, heart disease and other [NCDs] but they are in danger of being forgotten as global targets for action are drawn up, say health groups.” Boseley discusses an analysis by advocate Kate Armstrong, which suggests “the targets now being considered by the [WHO] and others to reduce the impact of heart disease, cancer and other [NCDs] are in danger of being focused solely on adults,” as “the targets under consideration aim to bring down the deaths of adults over the age of 30.”