Opportunity for Global Health Gains Could Be Lost

The Lancet's editors say the Sept. 19-20 UN High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases could produce a "bold and comprehensive statement" to stimulate a global response, but negotiations have produced a weak draft.

Editors of The Lancet published an editorial last week saying a meeting in New York City on Sept. 19-20 could spur more effective actions worldwide to combat non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, but negotiations have produced a weak draft statement that would have little impact if it became final.

The UN High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases will bring together heads of state and governments to approve a political statement on responding to non-communicable diseases, which cause 57 million global deaths annually –- at least half of which are preventable, the British medical journal's editors asserted. Negotiations on the draft stalled in early August "because of major differences between the leading negotiating countries," and the draft is disappointing, the editorial stated. (It was published online Aug. 30.)

It said the draft does not declare a goal commensurate with WHO's goal of a 25 percent reduction in national mortality rates by 2025, nor does it list targets for progress in controlling key risk factors such as tobacco use and salt intake.

"The next few weeks will be crucial in determining the final political statement from the UN High-Level Meeting," it said. "We urge all concerned countries, institutions, and individuals to make their voices heard by the negotiators in New York and by their ministers, building on the advocacy shown by the NCD Alliance. This is too good an opportunity for improving global health to be missed. We will be judged harshly, and rightly so, if we fail to make a major advance in addressing this neglected aspect of the health of people worldwide."

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