A turning point: This is how the president of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly described this week?s momentous high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, or NCD summit. We have an opportunity, he said, to define ?a new [global development] agenda and program for action,? one that reaches beyond the health sector to implement feasible solutions across government. It was a good start to an important day. The UN secretary general then addressed the world?s leaders and member-state representatives that had convened, stressing the utility of ?simple solutions,? public-private partnerships, and ? most importantly ? accountability. The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) followed by encouraging countries around the world to ?act now with a sense of urgency? at the highest level of their governments to prevent a ?slow-motion disaster.?
?NCDs are the clear winners in the business of dying.?
LIVESTRONG global envoy, HRH Princess Dina Mired, delivered a keynote on behalf of the 36 million whose lives are at stake due to the global burden of NCDs. She applauded member states that are party to the UN for developing a declaration that acknowledges the worldwide NCD problem and its consequences for development. However, she cautioned that the declaration falls short of recognizing NCDs as a global epidemic and also fails to set concrete targets that can address NCDs, such as a goal to reduce preventable deaths from these diseases by the year 2025, as has been recommended by the WHO. A number of presidents and ministers later made a number of statements that spoke not only to the burden of NCDs in their countries but also to the activities and opportunities that limit their impact. Recurring themes from the day highlighted the importance of prevention and access to medicines as well as international cooperation to ensure comprehensive, effective global and national initiatives.
We have come a long way, but it?s not enough.
The UN political declaration on the prevention and control of NCDs was accepted by all member states. While it is not a perfect document (something acknowledged by the myriad speakers at the start of the summit) it offers a good starting point. Now, there is a clear framework that elevates cancer and other NCDs to the level of other major global health priorities. The collective international response to NCDs should thus reflect their new status on the UN agenda. Moreover, that response will involve not only health officials but also leaders responsible for agriculture, finance, trade and other areas that influence the risk and impact of NCDs. Now that a declaration is on the books, the real work begins. We need to make sure countries follow through on their commitments and continue to work towards setting and meeting benchmarks that will make a real difference in the global fight against NCDs. 36 million people are counting on us to make sure it happens; 36 million people that deserve the right to health ? and life.