Cancers, diabetes, heart and lung diseases threaten the lives of millions of people worldwide. The economic impacts on households and health systems are so large that, especially in low- and middle-income countries, NCDs pose major poverty and development challenges.
More than 12 million deaths from noncommunicable disease (NCD) occur between the ages of 30 and 70 in developing countries, which constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century. Premature deaths from NCDs in developing countries undermine social and economic development, threaten the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and may lead to increasing inequalities within and between countries and populations.
The World Health Organization has, for the first time, brought together philanthropic foundations, NGOS and the private sector to explore ways to include noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in post-2015 development cooperation agendas and initiatives, internationally agreed development goals, economic development policies, sustainable development frameworks and poverty reduction strategies.
“The weak capacities in developing countries to tackle NCDs result in premature deaths from NCDs, reduced productivity, curtailed economic growth, and trap the poorest people in chronic poverty,” Ambassador Taonga Mushayavanhu, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the UN in Geneva.
Reducing both poverty and the number of people dying prematurely – before the age of 70 – from NCDs was the focus of a high-level strategic dialogue held on 20-21 April 2015 in Geneva by the WHO. This Dialogue on NCDs, poverty and development cooperation was one of the meetings part of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (GCM/NCD), where IFMSA as organization with official relations with WHO was invited to take part as a representative of the voice of young people in face of the worldwide epidemic of NCDs and for this occasion represented by the Liaison Officer for Public Health issues Arthur Mello.
The WHO GCM/NCD was established in response to the 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCDs, its scope and purpose is to facilitate and enhance the coordination of activities, multi-stakeholder engagement and action across sectors at the local, national, regional and global level to prevent and control NCDs in line with the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020.
The Dialogue engaged Member States, other United Nations agencies, and representatives from academia, NGOs and the private sector in the first-ever dialogue on tackling the connected issues of NCDs, poverty and development cooperation.
IFMSA contributed to the dialogue raising the importance of an explicit focus on youth to achieve the objectives of the Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020. Highlighting that the prevalence of NCDs is related to unhealthy behaviors and practices typically initiated in adolescents, which will have a direct effect on their risk of developing NCDs later in life. Building a healthier future depends on effective interventions during this critical window of opportunity.
Another important topic addressed by IFMSA was the necessity of improvements on the analysis of risk factors among youth, once this can give us more resources about their future influence on the burden of NCDs and help governments to develop more policies and programs focused to mitigate those risks and promote healthy lifestyles.
Although NCDs affect many young people from different parts of the world and with different realities of access to health, most prevention measures are not targeted towards this age group. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the young people from the present are the ones who are going bear the consequences of inefficient actions on the burden of NCDs in the future. IFMSA will continue to advocate for effective measures towards the relation NCDS/Youth in all NCDs policy discussions and make sure that we are all following a safe and healthy path.
Entry written by Arthur Mello, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues. Contact him at [email protected]