MSH Calls on UN Member States to Commit to Strengthening Health Systems to Address NCDs

MSH Calls on UN Member States to Commit to Strengthening Health Systems to Address NCDs

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. 

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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.

NCDs cannot be addressed using vertical, disease-centered approaches. The chronic nature of the diseases requires a continuum of care. NCD advocates from academic to civil society are pushing for member states to invest in a holistic approach to NCDs and any other disease in the future. It is crucial that governments recognize their multiple partners in-country—including the private sector, NGOs, civil society, and academics. All play leading roles in this movement.

At Management Sciences for Health , we have seen firsthand the critical importance of building leadership and governance capacity so that ministries can prioritize and implement strong national health sector plans for an effective NCDs response. Governments also need accountable and efficient health care financing to ensure resources are properly used for treatment and care for NCDs. Drug costs are a substantial part of the direct costs of care for NCDs; there must be sustained access to drugs for national health systems to provide quality care.

The health workforce in developing countries is often already overwhelmed. The range of interventions and the duration of care for NCDs can take a toll on the health workforce, and more primary health care workers are needed.

The UN Meeting must focus investments and actions not only to increase the quantity of health workers, but also to train these workers for provision of quality, integrated care, both for NCDs and other conditions.

The global health community is at a critical crossroads. For the past decade, it was essential to fund interventions for specific diseases because the number of infections was so vast. As demographics change and people are living longer, however, a health systems approach to NCDs has the greatest health impact and ensures that interventions are sustainable, efficient, and effective.

Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH is President and Chief Executive Officer of Management Science for Health. Dr. Quick has worked in international health since 1978. He is a family physician and public health management specialist.