by Doug Ulman
The United Nations General Assembly took an important step today and it should be applauded.
In calling for a Special Assembly next year on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes), the UN is addressing a set of diseases that kill more people globally than anything else.
But what?s new and horrifying is that this death spiral is accelerating.
Globalization and urbanization has resulted in more and more people living lives defined by tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets, limited physical activity and exposure to environmental carcinogens.
Worse, these cultural and behavioral risk factors ? which will only grow if not controlled – not only drive these diseases, but make communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria more severe and harder to combat.
The interplay between these diseases, and the threat imposed on people from the way we live now, has made this a particularly cruel, modern-day disease phenomenon.
The irony is that this phenomenon may well strangle the global economic development engine ? productive middle-aged workers ? and threaten the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the world?s collective agreement to help the poorest of the poor.
Despite these challenges, there?s hope. We?ve learned how to reduce the threat of these diseases in very cost-effective ways, in both rich and poor countries. We know what works.
We simply need to encourage more political leadership such as what we saw today at the UN to close the gap between what we know and what we do.