On March 19, Loyce Pace Bass, the Director of Health Policy for the LIVESTRONG Foundation, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related programs in Congress. She emphasized the importance of addressing the growing burden of NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in developing countries and urged members to maintain funding for important U.S. Global Health Programs. Her testimony was on behalf of the LIVESTRONG Foundation and the NCD Roundtable, of which the organization is a founding member. The written testimony submitted to the subcommittee can be found here, and highlights are detailed below.
This is the number of people worldwide who died of cancer, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, and stroke 4 years ago, and mostly in poor countries. This is six times more than the number of people who died of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined that same year. Despite these statistics, there is an extreme disparity between what is arguably the world’s global health crisis and the resources committed to that need. The LIVESTRONG Foundation sees this as a call to action, which is why the organization has been advocating on this issue since hosting the Global Cancer Summit in 2009.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that nothing can be done in developing countries because these diseases are too complex or costly to treat. In reality, U.S. agencies and the private sector have been demonstrating what can be done in countries by leveraging existing platforms and with limited resources or even with no new funding.
Extensive gains in global health have occurred, in large part, due to the U.S. investment in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in developing countries through the PEPFAR program. Studies have shown that PEPFAR platforms can easily be expanded to prevent and treat NCDs if global health systems are strengthened. Without an expansion, our investment and progress in global health with be in jeopardy because of the growing threat of NCDs. “After all, if we save someone from AIDS or childbirth, only to lose her to a preventable cancer months later, we’ve lost out on a valuable investment and contributor to society,” Pace Bass testified. So rather than a focus on just one disease, current funding can be leveraged to tackle emerging priorities too. For a great example of working across disease sectors, listen to Francine’s story, a teenager in Rwanda who was treated for cancer in a clinic originally built to address HIV/AIDS.
This is the cost of doing nothing to address NCDs. Experts state that, in less than 20 years, NCDs will cost $47 trillion globally if we don’t take action. This is not the cost of treating these diseases, $47 trillion is the estimated economic loss to our global GDP. The World Economic Forum ranks the pandemic as one of the top risks to global well being on par with the international fiscal crisis. “We will pay for NCDs, no matter what, one way or the other.” Pace Bass testified.
The cost is too great – both to lives lost and financial resources invested. If current funding is leveraged, and health systems are strengthened, then people with both communicable and non-communicable diseases will have access to the care they need to survive. “Let’s apply what we know to what we do,” Pace Bass emphasized. The LIVESTRONG Foundation will continue its advocacy work with other stake holders to ensure that our progress in global health is not threatened and proven reforms are implemented to fight NCDs.