Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases

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? Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.

For three years, Lucy Sakala has counseled people seeking HIV tests at a District Hospital in Malawi. A year ago, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She has had chemotherapy and surgery, which are sometimes painful and tiring, but are extending her life.

During the counseling sessions, she sometimes tells her patients about her illness: “I tell them they should live positively. There are several conditions more serious than HIV. I tell them I have cancer. It’s difficult, but I live positively."

The day before she said this, she had journeyed seven hours to the nearest city to see her doctor. He told her he had no more chemotherapy and she must buy it in a pharmacy. The cost was roughly $180. Insurance would only pay half.  The remaining half is a month’s salary, which she didn’t have.

It was an exciting and insightful week of discussions at this month’s Global Health Council meeting on how to address the drastically growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancers, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, in advance of the UN High Level Summit on NCDs in September. Speakers made a strong case for including NCDs as a priority on the global health agenda. The intertwining of these diseases with communicable diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria are striking. Julio Frenk, MD, MPH, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health described the commonalities:

The theme of this year’s Global Health Council annual conference was Securing a Healthier Future in a Changing World. As populations are shifting, so are their health priorities. Increasing urbanization has led to more people living in and around cities, creating a series of problems that are new to public health professionals. Nutritional challenges, the need for improved water and sanitation infrastructure, and addressing the issue of unregulated health care providers are all problems facing governments, ministries, NGOs, donors, and populations. In addition, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and mental illness, are adding a new strain to many already resource constrained health systems. Of course, immunization, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and maternal death are all still very serious challenges in many of these systems and remain key priorities.

Today, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a new video: “Spotlighting the NCD Problem.” This video explains the challenge the world is facing with non-communicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 36 million people die each year due to NCDs, and a quarter of NCD deaths are of people aged under 60; 9 in 10 of these people are from developing countries.

MSH President and CEO Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH, recently called on UN member states to take a heath systems strengthening approach to NCDs.

Discovering MSH blog series graphicOver the next couple of months, as MSH celebrates it's 40th anniversary, reporter John Donnelly and photographer Dominic Chavez will be traveling to several countries to report on MSH’s work in the field. The stories will go into a book due out in the fall on MSH’s 40 years in global health. This blog entry is a post from the road, to give a flavor of their experiences with MSH staff.

In March 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world: What should the key priority of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases be and why? We had a number of great submissions.  Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.  Read his entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead for other finalist's blogs and another blog contest on NCDs. 

This was originally posted on smartglobalhealth.org.

The most common NCDs are diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and chronic lung diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 36 million people die each year due to NCDs, and a quarter of NCD deaths are of people aged under 60; 9 in 10 of these people are from developing countries. Breast cancer kills over 270,000 women in the developing world each year.

Political and social momentum has been building, as the United Nations High Level Meeting on NCDs approaches, for a change from emergency, disease specific responses to an integrated systems-strengthening response.

As Haitians continue to struggle against many obstacles in improving and developing their country, cholera and sanitation remain challenges to many development efforts.

Since the cholera epidemic started in October, there have been a total of 252,640 confirmed cases. MSH integrated its response, where appropriate, with the national response that was coordinated by the Ministry of Health. Following the earthquake, MSH’s USAID-funded Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH) Project found that provision of basic health care through mobile kiosks in the settlement camp tents were an effective way to provide services and messages. Educational messages and oral rehydration solution (ORS) therapy are now being delivered via these kiosks. In addition, SDSH distributed cots, buckets, bleach, bottled water, and ORS to combat the disease.

A volunteer nun tending to a chld at the Drouin health centerOn Tuesday and Wednesday, Dr. Serge Conille, the HIV/AIDS technical Advisor of the USAID-funded SDSH project led by Management Sciences for Health, and designated lead of the project's emergency cholera task force, and I visited project-supported health facilities in the epicenter of the epidemic in the lower Artibonite Department (Province).

We drove into the cholera zone over a dirt track through a flat plain of fields, green, but neglected. The road ran parallel to what appeared to be a wide canal, the dikes on either side uneven and crumbling. Later, I found out that this was the Artibonite river, source of the epidemic. It was constrained and channeled some 25 years ago as part of a “whole valley development plan” which included promotion of rice cultivation. The rice is largely gone and the dikes are frequently overrun by the river which floods the surrounding countryside isolating some villages, sometimes for long periods of time.

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