The need to tackle the problem of chronic noncommunicable diseases from a multisectoral rather than simply a health perspective was the point on which experts from diverse organizations coincided today in one of the panels held during the Global Health Council.
The Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses, stated that in the area of chronic diseases, the common goals are clear and that, as the United Nations High-level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases approaches, the issues is being viewed not simply as a health problem, but as a development problem, a perspective, she noted, that encourages other sectors to get involved in the search for solutions.
The United Nations High-level Meeting will be held in New York this September and bring Heads of State together to discuss the impact of these diseases (i.e., cancer, diabetes, obesity, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases) and the path to follow.
Dr. Roses pointed to the need to move outside the participants’ comfort zone in the health sector, where they had worked for years, and to develop other skills, capabilities, instruments, and tools, ranging from regulations for the health sector to communication and marketing strategies. She stated that these lines of action should be defined by the sectors and different levels of government, as well as with the other partners, groups, and sectors involved.
Dr. Roses also mentioned the opportunity to use urban settings as spaces for changing or modeling behavior through the action of different sectors. She noted that activities are under way with local leaders, such as mayors, that combine the power of multisectoral interventions with that of the public sector to build consensus, and that this linkage will make a difference.
She noted that this is a fascinating time for the public health community and that the multidisciplinary assistance of the Global Health Council has a fantastic role to play in this context.
Montserrat Meiro-Lenzo, Senior Public Health Specialist for the World Bank, warned in turn that the issue of chronic noncommunicable diseases is now approaching the iceberg and that the question is, what to do to keep it becoming a Titanic. She called on the participants to fight the necessary battles and not offer vague solutions that dont meet the needs of each country. Meanwhile, Kari Stoever, Senior Adviser on Global Advocacy for GAIN, asserted that to address the issue of chronic noncommunicable diseases, the focus should be on mothers and children. Liviu Vedrasco, of the International Medical Corps, commented that while his area of pandemic preparedness covers many sectors, the efforts are always confined to public health, noting the importance of getting other sectors involved.