Congressional Study Tour: An Integrated Approach to Addressing an Emerging Global Health Challenge

Congressional Study Tour: An Integrated Approach to Addressing an Emerging Global Health Challenge

{Photo credit: Todd Shapera in Rwanda.}Photo credit: Todd Shapera in Rwanda.

Addressing NCDs is critical for global public health, but it will also be good for the economy; for the environment; for the global public good in the broadest sense… If we come together to tackle NCDs, we can do more than heal individuals–we can safeguard our very future.

- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his remarks to the UN General Assembly in 2011

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and the LIVESTRONG Foundation (LIVESTRONG) are proud to sponsor a Congressional staff study tour to Uganda and Rwanda examining the key elements of the countries' health systems with a particular focus on how the countries are addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases.

Strong health systems are the most sustainable way of improving health and saving lives at large scale. For a health system to address the needs of its people it must:

  • Act in a coordinated and integrated way so as to reach people who may otherwise go undetected.
  • Deliver integrated care including all players in the health system—government ministries, pharmacists, healers, health workers, and community health workers.
  • Be administered responsibility so to ensure quality care that is both physically and financially accessible.
  • Have strong information systems and an educated health workforce.
  • Support local public and private-sector healthcare providers.

Chronic diseases, also considered "the silent killer", pose a significant threat to global health and development. In fact, chronic diseases, including cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic lung diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, surpassing deaths from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Of the 36 million annual chronic disease deaths, 80 percent occur in low- and middle-income countries. Eight million of these deaths are preventable through changes in lifestyle and access to quality, affordable health services. Left unchecked, chronic diseases will be the leading cause of disability by 2030 and will lead to lost economic productivity and higher health care costs.

"According to the World Health Organization, deaths from NCDs will increase by 17 percent in the next decade. In Africa, that number will jump by 24 percent," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his remarks to the UN General Assembly in 2011. "The burden of NCDs will increase in low income countries like Rwanda as development gains eliminate avoidable child and maternal deaths."

"An important byproduct of this massive effort on HIV/AIDS has been the improvement of African health systems. PEPFAR and other programs have helped raise professional standards and improve infrastructure. This has raised an exciting prospect: to extend the gains on AIDS to other diseases," said President George W. Bush in a Washington Post op-ed about the AIDS 2012 Conference. Bush continued:

It is heart-wrenching to save a woman from AIDS, only to watch her die from cervical cancer, which is more prevalent in women with HIV… it is heartening to know that those diagnosed with early signs of cancer will have access to treatment and a good chance of beating it… To continue the momentum in the fight against AIDS, America must continue to lead. Having seen the need and accepted the challenge, we can’t turn our backs now.

MSH and LIVESTRONG believe by building high-impact, sustainable, locally-owned health systems, societies are healthier and countries are able to address emerging or future global health challenges.

Learn more about the MSH and LIVESTRONG study tour

A version of this post originally appeared on the MSH & LIVESTRONG Foundation Study Tour 2014 blog.