A civil society movement is growing in lead up to the United Nations (UN) Summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), said the Chairperson of NCD Alliance Ann Keeling, who was speaking at the WHO-wide Planning Meeting for the UN High level Meeting on NCDs in Washington DC, USA (source: youtube video). She is also the CEO of International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The UN Summit on NCDs she referred to, is scheduled to be held in September 2011.
The NCD Alliance is a formal alliance of four International federations: International Union Against Cancer (UICC), International Diabetes Federation (IDF), World Heart Federation and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). "We came together as federations because it is extremely important to not only work at the global level but also local level" said Keeling.
"Through this we have over 900 associations in more than 170 countries We have lot of people power to work on four main NCDs outlined in the World Health Organization (WHO)'s 2008-2013 Action Plan for NCDs: cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease."
These conditions share common risk factors (including tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets) and also share common solutions, which provide a mutual platform for collaboration and joint advocacy.
"We [NCD Alliance] have become in the last two years a leadership for civil society linking the global to the local in terms of advocacy, providing technical expertise and playing other roles" said Keeling.
"In many countries we are responsible for basic health service delivery in aspects of non-communicable diseases particularly in low-income countries. We provide a great deal of essential patient support" said Keeling.
"Governments at times rely on us, there is no clear dividing line between people of our organisations and those in the government. People in our member organisations work for the government in the day and volunteer for our organisations in the evening. We are not just advocacy organisations we are also delivering care on the ground" said Keeling.
Speaking on the role of NCD Alliance in the lead up to and during the forthcoming UN Summit on NCDs, Ms Keeling said "We are leading and convening a civil society movement in support of NCDs. We decided that we will do that because there was political space and nobody was doing that."
"Last summer we got together and drafted our own business plan which has our objectives and work programme. We have also put together a disease specific plan that IDF has for diabetes, so each federation is working at two specific levels: disease specific and NCDs. We will be following this up with first ever global plan on diabetes and a charter of patients' rights on diabetes."
Earlier, a call for action on diabetes was released by IDF. A similar disease specific call for action might be forthcoming from other partner federations of NCD Alliance.
"We are producing the evidence at both levels: NCDs and disease specific. We are at the moment working on our own NCD targets and indicators. We are doing as much as we possibly can" said Keeling.
"We have a monthly telephone call with 220 members of common interest group of NCD Alliance which includes NGOs working on NCDs and those working in other areas as well. We are funded by NGOs and private sector" said Keeling.
Keeling said that NCD Alliance wishes to achieve six specific goals from the UN Summit on NCDs:
1. NCD Alliance is asking for governments to be accountable to the NCD Plan
2. Focus on prevention: "prevention is important to everything we are talking about, risk factors including under- and over- nutrition" said Keeling.
3. Resources: "we will need more resources to deliver NCD interventions including essential medicines and technologies. Essential medicines are not just for treatment but also for prevention of secondary and at times very serious complications of NCDs" said Keeling.
4. "We are looking at globally approved approaches to NCD treatment and care. We have to give governments very easy approaches - where to start and what is it going to cost" said Keeling.
5. "We want the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to be fully implemented" said Keeling. WHO FCTC is the first corporate accountability and public health treaty of WHO for a comprehensive and coordinated response to tobacco control.
6. " We want the NCDs to be part of the development agenda. We want the NCDs to be an integral part of MDG goals. We are arguing for integration of NCDs into existing health systems and into existing funds. We are not looking for a new Global Fund or a new UN agency on NCDs. We want this integrated particularly at primary healthcare level" said Keeling.
"We are missing a safe space where governments, private sector and some of these NGOs can be dialoguing" said Keeling while sharing her own experiences where government representatives are asking her about the details of UN Summit on NCDs and need for better coordination between different stakeholders. "We cannot afford to lose our focus on some of the big questions: obesity, globalised lifestyle, link with the environment, new technology, funding, health sector worker issues" said Keeling.
The UN Summit on NCDs is likely to get not only governments' attention but also of other non-governmental organisations and private sector. The need for better coordination in lead up to, during and beyond the high profile UN meet on NCDs is going to become more demanding as time goes by, most likely. Hope the UN agencies, NCD Alliance, governments and other stakeholders are gearing up to meet this challenge in order to deliver the promises on NCDs. (CNS)
Bobby Ramakant – CNS
(The author writes on health and development for Citizen News Service (CNS) and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General's WNTD Awardee 2008. Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org )