Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) represent one of the greatest health threats of our century. NCDs are responsible for around 70% of the worlds deaths, of which more than 40% are premature. In IFMSA, we find it crucial to take urgent action to prevent and control NCDs, to ensure our health systems can appropriately manage and treat patients and it is imperative that medical students are trained in all aspects of this increasingly critical challenge of our generation.
Last week, IFMSA hosted an NCD Youth Caucus in Budva, Montenegro, engaging medical students from all parts of the world to increase awareness and encourage advocacy and meaningful youth participation at all levels of society. The NCD Youth Caucus was an official pre-dialogue meeting prior to the Global Dialogue meeting organized by the WHO Noncommunicable Diseases Global Coordination Mechanism (NCD GCM) in October 2017. The NCD conversation was initiated by a keynote address by Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Head of WHO NCD GCM, at the IFMSA General Assembly opening ceremony attended by 800 medical students as well as numerous high-level delegates from Montenegro including the Minister of Health, who also addressed the assembly.
During the two caucus sessions, the program combined panel discussions by global and national experts with workshops for young people to discuss challenges, solutions and effective policies in their respective contexts. With two panels, we aimed for a comprehensive overview of the different approaches and types of solutions to NCDs.
The first panel was broadly focused on NCDs as a global burden of disease, and consisted of the following speakers and topics:
- Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Head of WHO NCD GCM: Introduction to NCDs as a global burden of disease, and the work of WHO
- Jessica Beagley, Policy Research Officer at NCD Alliance: Urbanisation, health and sustainable development
- Dr. Marija Todorovic, Epidemiology Resident at the Center for NCDs in Montenegro: Montenegros policies for prevention and control of NCDs
- Liz Bennet, Chair-elect of Australian Medical Students Association Global Health: Nutrition, Food Systems, and NCDs
- Andrea Feigl-Ding, Health Economist at OECD (remotely): Donor financing for NCDs
- Jordan Jarvis, Executive Director at Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network (remotely): Access to medicines for NCDs
- Marie Hauerslev, IFMSA Vice-President for External affairs (Moderator)
The second panel focused on whether medical students are equipped to be future responders to NCDs, the speakers and areas covered were:
- Prof Lilja Music, Chief of Dept. of Cardiology, Clinical Center of Montenegro: Burden of NCDs in Montenegro and teaching of preventative health in medical education
- Dr. Shannon Barkley, Technical Officer at WHO Primary Health Care Services and Family Medicine: Primary healthcare as tool to reduce NCDs
- Dr. Natalja Trninic, anesthesiologist and intensivist at the Clinical Centre of Montenegro: Palliative care
- Dr. Caline Mattar, Chair of the World Medical Association Junior Doctors Network: Medical students and importance of advocacy skills
- Charlotte OLeary, Medical Student and previous intern at WHO NCD GCM (Moderator)
A primary outcome of the NCD Youth Caucus was the Budva Youth Declaration: A Call to Action on Noncommunicable Diseases which is based on caucus discussions, expert input, existing IFMSA policies and some data gathered from 128 National Member Organisations about the medical curriculums inclusion of NCD prevention and upstream factors to NCDs. The main call to action is to increase financial investments in action to address NCDs now, in order to curb the economic and social impact of these diseases in the future. The current domestic and international resources available are grossly inadequate to the burden of disease, despite several opportunities for highly cost-effective interventions to prevent and control NCDs. Furthermore, the Youth Declaration calls for bolder measures of all stakeholders regarding; Protecting health in the urban environment, Empowering vulnerable populations and reducing inequity, Youth and NCDs, Health systems for NCDs, and Investing in the health workforce.
Regrettably, the declaration shows that around 75% of National Member Organisations agreed or strongly agreed that more teaching was required on the topic of upstream determinants of health. However, almost 40% of National Member Organisations thought the quality of their education on preventative health was good or excellent, although 32% rated it as insufficient, and 5 countries rated the quality of their medical education on preventative health as very poor. As future doctors, we will be among the first line responders to patients with NCDs, and not providing us with the necessary education to respond appropriately and effectively further decreases the chances of ending the NCD epidemic.
The NCD Youth Caucus was organized during this March 2017 as the Third United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs will take place in summer 2018. We aimed to increase attention, understanding, and action to fight NCDs among young people. Following our efforts, we encourage all relevant stakeholders including governments and UN agencies to provide youth with a seat at the table, to ensure young voices are heard in the process at all levels of society recognizing that young people will be living in the world informed by decisions made today. One such initiative was presented by Dr. Mikkelsen from WHO NCD GCM, who have fathered a Community of Practice called “NCDs and the next generation” for NCD advocates of all ages to focus on the challenges youth face with NCDs as well as meaningful participation.
Please contact Marie Hauerslev, IFMSA Vice-President for External affairs ([email protected]), if you have any questions.