Leading NGOs applaud decision to tackle non-communicable diseases

For the first time ever, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a Non-communicable Disease (NCD) Summit involving Heads of State, in September 2011, to address the threat posed by NCDs to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The UN General Assembly [unanimous] decision was congratulated by the World Heart Federation, International Diabetes Federation (IDF), International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). Read more

This alliance of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) represents the four diseases ¬– cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases – that are responsible for 35 million annual deaths globally, 80% of which occur in LMICs. The alliance has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts to ensure the rising burden of NCDs was addressed in the global health and development agendas.

The World Heart Federation, IDF, UICC and The Union together represent 882 member associations in more than 170 countries. By mobilizing their member networks and working with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) NCDnet as well as other key organizations such as the Global Alliance on Respiratory Diseases and the Framework Convention Alliance they are one step closer to ensuring NCDs get the urgent attention they deserve, including a greater national focus, an integrated health-systems approach and allocation of essential funding. This will result in millions of lives being saved and a reversal in damaging social and economic effects.

The UN NCD Summit involving Heads of State [to be held in September 2011], will bring together government representatives from both overseas aid donor countries and LMICs with public health experts from around the world. They will discuss solutions to the growing danger posed by NCDs, and agree what action needs to be taken. The NCD alliance will support WHO in catalysing this process. There have only been 28 such summits in UN history which highlights the significance of the decision and the magnitude of the problem. The NCD alliance requests that member states invest the necessary resources to guarantee successful implementation.

"We know how to save lives, and tackle the damaging social and economic impact of noncommunicable diseases. This NCD Summit is urgently needed to agree on concrete global actions to address these diseases and their repercussions," said Professor Pekka Puska, President of the World Heart Federation.

The WHO estimates that global deaths from NCDs will continue to rise over the next 10 years, with the African region expected to see the highest relative increase (27%). An increasing body of evidence shows that the impact of NCDs on individuals, communities, and countries is undermining the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The omission of NCD indicators from the MDGs has been a critical barrier to securing donor funding for NCDs, which cause 14 million premature deaths every year in LMICs.

"Building on the foundation laid by the 2006 UN resolution on diabetes, we welcome the UN decision to hold a NCD Summit and support a wide consultation of the NCD community to ensure that the meeting produces concrete outcomes. We also need further research so that we can estimate the costs and cost-effectiveness of national interventions that are required to address NCDs," said Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, President of the IDF. "It is critical to ensure that NCD interventions are integrated into national health systems."

"Now that the UN has decided to focus on the actions that need to be taken at country level, it is time for all those involved in tackling noncommunicable diseases to act," said Professor David Hill, President of the UICC. "Together, we know what needs to be done. With the right resources and political support, we will soon see rapid progress."

"By working together, our organizations have shown how effective integrated action, rather than a silo approach, can be to achieving common goals," said Dr S. Bertel Squire, President of The Union. "We are now one step closer to dealing with a global health emergency that disproportionately affects the poor and to preventing millions of unnecessary deaths each year."

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