UN High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases

Ambassador Betty E. King, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva {Photo credit: US Mission, Geneva.}Photo credit: US Mission, Geneva.

The World Health Organization (WHO) established a global monitoring framework for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at a Geneva meeting on November 9, 2012 --- a little over a year after the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration on NCDs.

The chronic disease burden on low- and middle-income countries is vast: 28 million people in developing countries die annually from chronic diseases; yet, 8 million of these deaths are preventable.

An Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets (ADDOs) dispenser in Tanzania, an example of a successful, scale-able public-private sector collaboration. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Chronic diseases --- notably cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic lung diseases, and diabetes --- now account for nearly 35 million deaths annually. The human and economic burden of chronic diseases are staggering, especially in developing countries. Left unchecked, by 2030 the epidemic will kill twice as many people in low- and middle-income countries as it does today.

One year ago, the world came together to address this emerging global epidemic. Country representatives, policy makers, and civil society convened in New York for the United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and the UN General Assembly adopted a declaration, promising to strengthen and accelerate the response.

{Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Over 100 conference delegates came together at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to strategize smart solutions to global development and poverty reduction while promoting environmental concerns such as clean energy, sustainability, and equitable use of resources.  Popularly known as “Rio+20” --- for occurring twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit  --- the three days of high-level meetings attended by heads of state and government and high level representatives resulted in “The Future We Want,” a 53-page document that outlines and renews global commitments to sustainable, earth-friendly development.

Three women gather outside a Tanzanian health center. {Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.

The 65th World Health Assembly is convening this week in Geneva, beginning May 21. For six days, the Assembly will focus the world’s attention on chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), universal health coverage, mental disorders, nutrition and adolescent pregnancy, among other health issues.

This is the second time in less than a year that chronic NCDs --- such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung diseases --- are in the international spotlight. Last fall, the High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases convened in New York, when, for only the second time in the history of the United Nations, a high level summit focused on a global health concern.

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