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Issue Guide: Non-Communicable Diseases

Author: Toni Johnson
Updated: September 21, 2011


Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the most common causes of death worldwide. Once linked primarily to the developed world, data now show that most of the tens of millions of annual deaths related to diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease occur in the developing world. Alarmed by the increasing human and security threat posed by NCDs, the UN is holding a high-level meeting to kick off the September 2011 General Assembly to discuss global action--the first time since the 2000 meeting on HIV-AIDS that the Assembly will examine a health issue. The scope of the problem and policy challenges are explored in the following materials.

The Scope of the Problem

UN Declaration on Prevention and Control of NCDs

This resolution on non-communicable diseases was approved during a General Assembly meeting of UN members on September 19, 2011.

UN Declaration on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-Communicable Disease Control (PDF)

This "Moscow declaration" by health ministers signed in April 2011 discusses the global impact of the rise of non-communicable diseases and outlines the action plan.

CFR Backgrounder: Global Action on Non-Communicable Diseases

NCDs such as cancer and heart disease are becoming leading causes of death in the developing world. But health experts and others are divided about how much funding should go into a global campaign aimed at preventing NCDs and whether infectious disease programs will suffer as a result.

Non-Communicable Diseases Country Profiles 2011

This World Health Organization report surveys 193 countries, including details of what proportion of each country's deaths are due to diseases such as cancer, heart and lung diseases, and diabetes.

The Fight Against Chronic Disease

CFR's Yanzhong Huang argues in New York Times International Weekly that the burden of non-communicable diseases in the BRIC countries is large, and that the BRICS should invest in system-wide public health interventions, place a strong emphasis on tobacco control, and develop programs targeting shared risk factors for NCDs.

Will Industry Influence Derail UN summit?

Debora Cohen in the British Medical Journal states that years of planning may be set to unravel at the UN meeting on NCDs because the United States is lobbying hard for a set of "voluntary" targets for the control of non-communicable diseases. Some NGOs argue this will undermine any move toward tougher restrictions.

Getting the Politics Right on NCDs (PDF)

In this report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies calls for the development of specific, measurable goals on reduction of mortality rates; for governments to commit to national plans to flesh out targets and develop regulations; and for innovative financing such as public-private partnerships.

2011 UN Session on NCDs: Applying Lessons from the AIDS Response

In this article in PLOS Medicine, Peter Lamptey says the lessons learned in the global response to AIDS are relevant to the UN's meeting on NCDs.

NCD Action Plan for the UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases

The Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance released this action plan on non-communicable diseases in preparation for the UN Summit.

The Challenge of Non-Communicable Disease in Emerging Powers

Rachel Nugent, Derek Yach, and Jean-Paul Chretien examine the challenges of NCDS in emerging economies, at a CFR meeting.


Could NCD Advocacy Hurt Global Health Funding?

Jeff Meer, in Global Health Dialogue, says funding for preventing and treating infectious diseases arose from a realization that these illnesses represent direct threats to the security and economic prosperity of the world. This argument does not apply for NCDs.

Global Chronic Disease: It's Not All About the Money

Amanda Glassman and Denizhan Duran of the Global Health Policy at the Center for Global Development write in the Atlantic that non-communicable diseases can be reduced with simple, low, or no-cost interventions that even the poorest countries can implement.

Grappling with the Tensions Around NCDs

Sir George Alleyne, Alafia Samuels, and Karen Sealey argue in Global Health Magazine that in the developing world, primary-care services focused on maternal and child health and acute problems, but it is now necessary to reorient health systems to provide continuing care that is patient-centered and disregards the nature of the health problem or its duration.

Leveraging Existing Health Platforms to Expand NCD Services

Peter Lamptey, Rebecca Dirks, and Inoussa Kabore write in Global Health Magazine that given limitations in funding and human resources, integration of NCD services into existing health platforms offers an efficient approach to combating chronic diseases.

Global Governance Monitor

This CFR interactive examines the components of the global health regime.

Risk Factors

Forging a New Trade Policy on Tobacco

CFR's Thomas J. Bollyky proposes a new strategy by which the Obama administration can better balance U.S. mandates on trade policy on tobacco with its interests in promoting global health and U.S. standing abroad.

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

This treaty was negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization and entered into force on February 27, 2005.

Debt and the Demographics of Aging

CFR's Mike Hodin argues global scope of graying demographic trends will define social and economic needs and government policy for decades and will require a radical new way of thinking.

Global Aging Preparedness Index

The Center for Strategic and International Studies provides the first comprehensive quantitative assessment for how prepared countries can address the challenges of aging populations.

Is Obesity a Development Issue?

Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam, looks at how growing urbanization, sedentary lifestyles, and changing diets are increasing the proportion of obese people in developing countries.