Translating Global Goals into local actions to fight NCDs

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Photo credit: CNS:
A few days before José Luis Castro,
 Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) took over the dual responsibility of the Chair of the steering committee of the NCD Alliance, he spoke at a webinar hosted by CNS (Citizen News Service) in the lead up to the World Heart Day. A few days later, he inspired us once again by his thoughtful remarks delivered to the NCD Alliance, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, while assuming his new charge.

Here are some valuable excerpts from Jose's expert remarks:

"We all recognise the realities that comprise our own sense of urgency to combat the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are the cause of two thirds of the global mortality. Their burden and impact continue to increase, especially in low and middle income countries (LMIC), that are ill prepared and ill equipped to face it, given the extreme shortfall of funding faced by them. Moreover, only a paltry amount of 1.2% of development assistance for health goes to fight NCDs.

This is why there is a great urgency to press on the agenda of the NCDs. There was an expanded political commitment for the NCDs from the 2011 UN  declaration and there was also the opportunity to strive for their inclusion in the post 2015 development agenda, that includes a goal of reducing premature deaths due to NCDs by one third by 2030.

Now that there have been some impressive gains in shaping the structure of the global approach, and this goal is enshrined within the global development agenda, it is time to shift our efforts from talking and framing to acting. Now is the time for translating words into sustained implementation at the national and regional levels.

At the NCD Alliance, to achieve the long term goal of one third reduction in premature NCD mortality by 2030, 3 interim goals have been set to be achieved in the next 5 years by 2020. These are to:
(i) integrate NCDs as a priority in national health and development planning;
(ii) mobilize adequate and sustainable human and financial resources for NCDs at all levels; and
(iii) improve the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and alliances nationally and regionally to effectively influence policies on NCD prevention and control.

Even though we recognize that more of the same is insufficient, we will strive to focus on 4 strategic directions to achieve these goals:-

Maintain pressure at the global level for a coordinated global advocacy

The inclusion of the NCDs in the post 2015 agenda is just the beginning and not the end of this global response. Advocacy on these issues will remain crucial if we have to see hard earned political commitments translate into concrete actions, resources and improvements in health and the well being for people. We must influence and drive future.

Promote accountability

The HIV/AIDS and women’s and children’s health communities have demonstrated the crucial role civil society can play in holding governments accountable to commitments made. The NCD Alliance will act as a global watchdog, monitoring and reviewing the progress made on NCD targets and also support CSOs  around the world to do the same.

Build the capacity of NCD civil society

Here lies the heart of our grand challenge. While we have convinced leaders of the need to prioritize NCDs and share proven strategies for how they can implement life saving policies, we must strengthen NCD civil society movements at national and regional levels to ensure commitment, accountability and action on the ground.

Broker knowledge

Now that commitments are in place, all stakeholders in the NCD response are seeking out good practice and ‘what works’ in NCD governance, prevention, treatment and surveillance. We must identify and share good practice from all corners of the world on NCD policy and practice, and increase access to knowledge and innovations that will enhance policy, service delivery and financing mechanisms.

The health risks to which tobacco exposes people are well known now, and so also the growing interplay between TB and diabetes. We have seen the world galvanised into action around the deadly effects of tobacco: A global framework convention, increased tobacco taxes to discourage use and to fund educational programmes, highly effective mass-media campaigns, strict limits on advertising and promotions, the commitment of significant resources to encourage people to adapt healthier lifestyles – all this and more has happened in a relatively short time. It will happen too, as we drive the world toward adapting programmes, policies and behaviours that attenuate the risk factors associated with NCDs.

It is important for health authorities of LMIC to prioritise their resources and political commitments to address these issues. As an alliance of more than 2,000 civil society organisations working in 170 countries to combat NCDs, the NCD Alliance has considered thoughtfully how to best ensure that we continue to assist governments in providing information and advocacy so that NCDs receive appropriate share of the financial resources. We will strive to identify and share  good practices from all corners of the world on NCD policy and practice and  increase access to knowledge and innovation to advance these policies.

The media is an important part of this great effort and I am counting on their support to help us accomplish this goal. It is very central to our belief in the power of strategic partnerships. Also without active participation and advocacy of civil society at global level, it will be difficult to ensure success in battling this epidemic.

Dr. Martin Luther King had once said--'We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now'. This applies to our times and to our work too."

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
October 9, 2015

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