Noncommunicable diseases, notably cancers, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease kill an estimated 40 million people annually. With more than 80% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle- income countries, NCDs have become a major global health priority. Indeed, the inclusion of NCDs within the Sustainable Development Goals reflects their importance as a health priority as well as influence on long-term economic development. Because NCDs hit people at the prime of their working lives, they have a significant impact on families, communities and ultimately countries.
But despite the ramifications on health and the economy, the funding environment for NCDs remains bleak. The NCD Roundtable, a public-private coalition of organizations and companies that advocates for increased U.S. commitments in global NCDs, works tirelessly to change this dynamic by exploring ways to leverage existing investments in global health to support chronic disease prevention and care.
The NCD Roundtable is an example of public-private collaboration to tackle the spread of chronic disease through advocacy. Below are several other areas where existing public-sector infrastructure and programs can align with private sector expertise and resources to accelerate progress on NCDs:
Build the capacity of health workers. In his remarks at a recent briefing in Washington, D.C., entitled Addressing NCDs Globally: The Power of Integration, Congressman Bera, a medical doctor, highlighted the importance of building the capacity of health workers to be able to address the needs of patients with chronic disease. Recruiting, training and retaining qualified health workers remains a challenge in many countries, particularly in hard-to-reach rural areas.
Create more opportunities to educate healthcare workers to screen and treat chronic and emerging diseases. To foster greater retention rates, health workers need clear paths for career advancement and adequate compensation for their work. Recent years have seen an increase in partnership across sectors to increase the number of trained health workers, particularly in Africa. As a next step, greater coordination and collaboration among these initiatives can foster a more robust health workforce.
Strengthen capacity across the supply chain. From logistics to preventing stock-outs, strong supply chains are essential to global health programs, including NCDs. This is another area where private sector expertise can support public sector investments to increase efficiencies, helping provide health workers with the medicines and supplies they need when they need them.
Delegates will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark April 9-11 for the WHO Global Dialogue on Partnerships for Sustainable Financing of NCD Prevention and Control to explore how to mobilize funding to support efforts to address NCDs. This is an essential step to prepare for the upcoming third UN High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on NCDs taking place in New York City on September 27th, 2018 (date tentative, pending agreement by Member States). The UNHLM on NCDs is a chance to take stock of progress made against global targets and catalyze renewed commitments to address this growing burden. The private sector plays a significant role in tackling the NCD challenge, and it is therefore essential that they are part of these important discussions. The UNHLM on NCDs should be a call for collective action across all sectors to work collaboratively to strengthen the health systems needed to reach the NCD goals.