Non-Communicable Diseases: Join the Fight

For too long, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - mainly cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes - have been a hidden epidemic. As described by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, they represent a public health emergency in slow motion. 

This epidemic, driven largely by tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol, causes 36 million deaths globally each year. Of these 36 million deaths, 14.2 million occur between the ages of 30-70, the most productive years of life. Most of these deaths could have been prevented.

Developing countries are hit the hardest- 86% of these preventable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where 29% of NCD deaths occur among people under the age of 60, compared to 14% in high-income countries. Progress to date on NCDs has been vastly inadequate. The result is the global catastrophe we find ourselves in today.

To address this shortcoming, governments held a landmark High-level Meeting at the United Nations and agreed a Political Declaration on NCDs in September 2011, where world leaders (including over 30 Heads of State) declared NCDs a global priority and committed to taking actions to address the crisis.

Learn more about our campaign for a global NCD framework to fulfill commitments made in the Political Declaration.

Learn more about our campaign to make NCDs a global development priority.

A recent study by the World Economic Forum and Harvard University estimates that NCDs will cost the world economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years, representing 75 percent of global GDP and surpassing the cost of the global financial crisis. And yet, the World Health Organization estimates that a basic package of cost effective strategies to prevent and treat NCDs would cost $11.4 billion a year in low- and middle- income countries.

Because of the size of the epidemic, the diverse causes, and the universal impact, NCDs are everyone's problem. The epidemic is too big for governments to solve alone. Tackling the global NCD crisis head on requires a concerted and coordinated multi-sectoral response, committed to by world decision makers and business leaders, driven by a global civil society movement and those affected by or living with these conditions.

Currently, donor countries are operating a policy ban on funding NCDs, thereby starving low-income governments of the financial and technical assistance needed to turn around the NCD epidemic. This policy has to change, with overseas development assistance becoming aligned to the priorities of recipient countries. Urgent action is required to integrate NCDs into global health and development approaches and priorities.

Yet, the international community displays no sense of urgency or outrage about NCDs, the silent killer that is threatening development and economic progress. The time to act is now.

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