© Adam Watt / NCD Alliance

No Turning Back: Charting opportunities to invigorate and intensify the NCD response

26th September 2018

At an NCD Alliance event held in New York on 26 September ahead of the third UN HLM on NCDs, CEO Katie Dain spoke on the opportunities she sees to strengthen the NCD response. This blog reflects her remarks.

Time to act: A “do or die” moment

There have been many different phrases for tomorrow. A “landmark moment.” A “crossroads in the response.” A “golden opportunity.” An “inflection point,” even. All are true, but I prefer to refer to the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs as a “do or die” moment. And I mean that literally. 

You will have seen the new data we published last Friday, as part of our new NCD Countdown initiative. Those numbers speak volumes and set a sobering context for the HLM tomorrow. At the current rate of progress, more than half of all countries in the world will fail to meet the SDG 3.4 NCD mortality target. In this country where we meet this week, and in 14 others around the world, progress on NCD mortality reduction for women is stagnating, as it is in 24 countries for men. What do those projections mean in real terms, beyond statistics and numbers? They mean that unless urgent action is taken by governments and all of us in this room, millions more people and communities over this next decade will lose loved ones to avoidable and early death. Millions more will witness the carnage of amputations and disability through lack of diagnosis and treatment. Millions more will struggle with entrenched poverty caused by catastrophic out of pocket expenditures.

These are the real consequences of political inertia and the frankly irresponsible and unethical priority and investment we have seen bestowed on NCDs to date. Therefore this HLM literally is a “do or die” moment. Governments have two options: either they heed the urgency of the situation, wake up and smell the coffee that they are sleepwalking into a very sick future for both themselves and for their children, and commit to a whole different pace of action to implement the tried and tested solutions. Or they ignore the alarm bells, continue with business as usual, and have blood on their hands. 

Optimism ahead of the UN HLM

We have heard from just a small proportion of the champion governments tonight that are thankfully taking that first progressive course of action. And with the unprecedented number of Heads of Government and State coming together tomorrow, we can be cautiously optimistic that the number of trailblazer governments will continue to grow. We have also heard from advocates and people living with NCDs tonight who have committed their lives to tackling the injustices of NCDs, who are tackling head on the inaction, the apathy, and the acceptance that NCDs are now the norm, rather than the exception. These are our rays of hope and the change agents who are making a difference on the ground. And their energy and tenacity have yielded very real and important strides in the NCD response since the last two high-level meetings. While we still no doubt have our work cut out, to put it lightly, the NCD community has a lot to celebrate. The tide is turning.  

When I think of the tireless campaigning this past year, the impressive mobilisation and momentum at national and regional levels, the multitude of voices that got behind our campaign, it is clear. The NCD community is alive and well, has truly found its voice, is growing stronger by the day, and above all, has drawn a line in the sand that we have had ENOUGH. You might go as far as to say that we have proven a certain Editor in Chief of a major scientific journal wrong, who stated almost three years ago that the NCD community was “semi-comatosed” and needed an electric shock to wake us up! Perhaps this High-Level Meeting has in some way been an electric shock for us as a community. Let us hope the same can be said for our political leaders and governments. 

Renewed commitment in the NCD community

I want to end by thanking everyone who has shown their commitment, passion and dedication to NCDs as we approach the HLM. Your partnership, innovation and perseverance is the driving force behind the NCD response. I would like to see these days in New York charge each one of you with a renewed sense of urgency, a renewed commitment to action, and a promise to deliver. To deliver environments that promote health. To deliver tried and tested public health policies that yield results. To deliver a world that ensures all people their right to access to safe, affordable medicines. To deliver the world we want.



Katie Dain (@KatieDain1) has worked with the NCD Alliance since its founding in 2009. Katie is widely recognised as a leading advocate and expert on NCDs. She is currently a member of the WHO Independent High-Level Commission on NCDs, co-chair of the WHO Civil Society Working Group on the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, and a member of The Lancet Commission on NCDIs of the Poorest Billion. Her experience covers a range of sustainable development issues, including global health, gender equality and women’s empowerment, violence against women, and women’s health.