The People Behind the Policy: Putting a Face on NCDs
July 6, 2011
In June 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world, Do you think it's possible to create a unified social movement for NCDs, akin to the movements that already exist for individual chronic diseases? If so, why? If not, what initiatives can we implement in the place of an effective social movement to move an NCD agenda forward? We had a number of great submissions. Doug Ulman was one of our four finalists. Read his entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead for other finalists' blogs and another blog contest on NCDs.
President and CEO, LIVESTRONG
As one of the leaders of the first unified global movement against cancer, LIVESTRONG is confident a similar movement for NCDs can be created. Getting NCDs recognized on a global level can seem like an uphill battle. But that’s what people were saying about the HIV/AIDS epidemic just ten years ago and the progress with that disease has been remarkable. We can learn from the movement created by our friends in the communicable disease community.
In one way or another, we are all affected by cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs are the world’s number one silent killer, accounting for two out of three deaths each year worldwide. By 2030, 8 out of 10 leading causes of death will be linked to NCDs. We are facing a global epidemic.
But the good news is that up to 40% of cancers and 80% of precursors to cardiovascular disease and diabetes could be prevented through limited exposure to tobacco, a healthy diet and adequte physical activity. And we can do something about that. We can provide education, diagnostics, patient support and other essential services to combat NCDs.
In order to create a global movement, we need to introduce the world to the people who are affected by lifesaving policies and programs and the impact of meaningful government and civil-society commitments to make this a global health priority.
Behind every diagnosis there are people and their families who will deal with the risk, diagnosis and treatment or management of their NCD as a unique individual. There is a distinct need to focus less on the disease itself and focus more on the person(s) with the disease. Putting the focus of NCDs on the person enables both government entities and civil society agencies to visualize the importance of acting swiftly to combat NCDs and the social and economic issues associated with these diseases. The widespread prevalence of NCDs is more than just a health issue. NCDs affect every single portion of a person’s life. The social and cultural problems that affect people with NCDs are often founded in the stigma attached to cancer and other NCDs. We need to show the face of people living with NCD s and broadcast their voice. If we empower patients, families or those at risk to speak out about NCDs, we can further elevate the national dialogue and open the door to critical local and global responses to this health priority.
The economics of NCDs, namely their associated personal health costs, also serve as a face of the burden. The person’s ability to earn income or do any type of work is significantly reduced or even completely lost. People living with NCDs around the world face poverty as a result of catastrophic health costs. And what’s even more concerning, global NCDs pose a significant risk to national and global economies in a way that hinders the broader global development agenda.
If we remember the faces of NCDs, we can save millions of lives and do right by the world.