The question is, ?What if??
This September we have a landmark opportunity to save MILLIONS of lives. For the first time in the history of the United Nations, world Leaders are meeting to discuss the rising burden of Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease. There has only ever been one special gathering dedicated to global health at the UN, and it was the 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS. The 2001 UNGASS contributed directly to the creation of policies and international institutions and mechanisms like the Global Fund- which have curbed the global HIV epidemic over the last decade. So what I want to know is, ?what if??
NCDs are responsible for 60% of deaths worldwide every year- with the majority (80%) occurring in low and middle income countries. And, most of us know someone who has been affected by any one of these potentially fatal diseases. They are not just diseases of the western world- they are the new global killers, and we are in the middle of a public health crisis.
What if?cancer became a global priority? What if? policymakers and institutions found a way to dedicate the appropriate level of resources to the NCD crisis? What if? civil society and media were able to collaborate to raise awareness of NCDs in every country around the world? What if current knowledge were put to practice so that cancer survivors living in Haiti, Kenya, Jordan, Vietnam, the US, Mexico, or Germany all had equal access to care and treatment?
By signing our open letter, every one of us has an opportunity to take action to reverse the world?s most deadly killers. NCDs are not a global health priority, but they could be.
I have seen the effects of cancer in places like South Africa and Mexico, where the stigma associated with the disease too often isolates individuals, devastates families, and results in unnecessary suffering. In many places around the world, cancer is seen as a death sentence and this stigma limits the ability of people to share their experience with others. When they do however, it has an incredibly powerful effect. It lets others know that cancer and other NCDs, are not a death sentence and that there is hope.
Ultimately, I signed on because I am inspired by the people I meet and I am honored to listen to their stories. As the child of two cancer survivors, as a LIVESTRONG supporter, as an individual working in public health, and as a citizen of humanity, I have a moral obligation to take action against these vicious diseases ? to help share the stories of those who do not have a voice and to raise this issue to our policymakers.
By signing on, the only question you will need to ask is not ?what if?? but rather.. ?what?s next??