New York, 17 September 2011 (PAHO/WHO) – Public health advocates concerned about noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) should seek access to political forums to help keep this subject high on the political agenda, said Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), at a meeting of the NCD Alliance held today at the New York Academy of Medicine.
The purpose of the meeting was to brief nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) about next week’s United Nations High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases, being held Sept. 19 and 20 in New York.
Dr. Roses encouraged those concerned about the growing burden of NCDs to remain active even after the U.N. meeting. “Keep up hope. It can be done,” she said.
She praised efforts by the NCD Alliance to build interest in NCDs and said that continuing work by civil society groups will be needed to ensure follow-up on the commitments made by governments at next week’s U.N. meeting.
It will be important that advocates seek every opportunity to raise the subject of NCDs at forums where public policies are discussed, said Dr. Roses. She cited as an example the Summit of the Americas, which will bring heads of state from throughout the Americas together in Cartagena, Colombia, next April. She added that it is important to build the capacity of NGOs to do advocacy and promotion on NCDs.
“We should celebrate all that this Alliance has done,” she said. “This is clearly a demonstration of the best that can be achieved through support and promotion.”
NCDs—including cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases—are the leading causes of death around the world. In the Americas, three out of four people suffer from at least one of these diseases. Some 3.9 million people die each year from NCDs, 1.5 million of them before the age of 70.
The NCD Alliance is a civil society movement against premature death and preventable illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Dr. Karen Sealey, of PAHO’s U.N. office, said much work needs to be done before NCDs are viewed as a collective priority, as happened with HIV/AIDS. Following next week’s meeting she said supporters will have to decide whether to promote a second such meeting in the following years.
Dr. Eduardo Cazap, President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), said he never thought NCDs would become a top item on the global political agenda, as it will be after next week’s summit. “This is not something just for ministers of health, the public sector, or the private sector,” said Cazap. “This is something that brings civil society around the world together as a whole.”
Prof. Jean-Claude Mbanya, President of the NCD Alliance, said there are many reasons to celebrate the upcoming U.N. summit as a victory. “But this political declaration that will come out of the United Nations High-Level Meeting will not solve the problem. We will have to continue the fight together.”
UICC's CEO, Cary Adams, said it was important to keep working to increase interest in prevention of NCDs. “This is a long-term goal,” he said.
- For more information on the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases
- For more information on Wellness Week
- For more information on the NCD Alliance