NCDs Should Be Considered A 'Human Rights Concern'

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.”

“For the majority of people worldwide who suffer and die from diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, the freedom to choose a healthier life was never part of the equation,” the authors state, noting that a lack of knowledge about prevention, control over exposure to risks, and access to health services contribute to increased risk of NCDs. “Advocates need to reframe the NCD debate into an equity imperative and a key lever for economic, social and human development — as has been done for some of the most polemic issues over time, from child labor to improving access to curative treatment and prevention for HIV/AIDS,” Grover and Knaul write. “Placing the responsibility — causal and curative — for the NCD pandemic on the shoulders of the individuals who suffer unfair exposure to risk and disease is not the way to move forward and reduce avoidable deaths,” they state, concluding, “By casting aside this misperception, NCDs will cease to be erroneously equated with personal health choices and become a larger human rights concern and a cause for global action” (9/19).