Special Issue on NCDs Online Now!

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The special issue has free open access for the duration of the Summit meeting.

The Noncommunicable Disease Challenge

The 21st century offers enormous promise with communication, knowledge, and connectedness unlike any time in history. Nonetheless, we all are at increased threats to our health as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), those mainly due to exposure to risk factors including tobacco and alcohol, poor diets, and limited physical activity, contribute to two thirds of all new cases of premature deaths globally.

Recognizing the challenge to global humankind and prosperity, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously agreed to convene a High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs in September 2011. This is only the second time in history that the UNGA focused an event on health; the first was in 2001 response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As the impact of this challenge has been described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a “public health emergency in slow motion,” NCDs increase each day. Today, many effective evidence-based strategies exist for the prevention and treatment of NCDs, but little progress has been achieved by global public health forces in preventing, curbing, or reversing the steady progress of the NCD epidemic into developing countries. Current scenarios indicate that global NCD deaths (now accounting for 60% of all deaths globally) will increase by 17% over the next 10 years with poor and disadvantaged populations disproportionately affected, widening health disparities between and within countries.

In 2011, for example, every day, over 1 billion people smoke or chew tobacco, accounting for one in six of all NCD deaths. Levels of obesity are increasing as they have more than doubled since 1980. Today, more than 1.5 billion adults are overweight, and 43 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. And, a disease like diabetes is increasing to staggering numbers. The global prevalence of diabetes will escalate to 500 million by 2030, from 300 million today. Appropriate health communication about these NCD risk factors has the potential to increase health literacy and promote healthy behaviors with the goal of preventing disease. With the rapid increase in Interactive Communication Technologies, the reach of this communication can be limitless through the use of mobile and digital technology for health.

Given all the challenges in the world—from finance to the environment—the World Economic Forum nonetheless has ranked NCDs above climate change and alongside the global financial crisis in terms of the global risk they pose. The World Economic Forum has dedicated a Global Agenda Council on Chronic Disease and Wellness as an informal advisory group to the World Economic Forum comprised of 15 to 20 relevant experts that represent “the world’s foremost interdisciplinary brain trust of innovative thinking and idea exchange on global issues.” The Chronic Disease Global Agenda Council is chaired by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Mirta Roses Periago, who subsequently has drafted the opening editorial to this issue. Clearly, the NCD threat will require innovative responses and concerted action—both public and private—to reverse the troubling trends and turn the tide toward health and well being.

This special issue of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives entitled “Communicating the Noncommunicable” was born at the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Chronic Disease and Wellness held in Dubai in November 2010. In the development of this journal, many of the authors have engaged in research and dialogue throughout the globe including participation in the UN Interactive Civil Society hearing in the General Assembly in June 2011.

This issue is guest edited by two world experts—Professor Peter Anderson and Dr. Sania Nishtar—both members of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council. With a wide range of contributors, the issue hopefully can advance the dialogue with multi-sectoral and pluridisciplinary ideas for the health diplomacy that will be necessary to galvanize political action and policies at the global, regional, national, local, and community level.

Finally, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to the global health diplomacy and dialogue on NCDs. I remain convinced that effective and ethical health communication is an important foundation to address NCDs and advance health. It is my hope that this issue and the contributions of the authors will help make the world a better place for all of us to live and prosper with health and happiness.

Scott C. Ratzan MD, MPA, MA is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health Communication; International Perspectives and Vice President of Global Health, Johnson & Johnson. He serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Chronic Disease. He also is co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s Innovation Working Group on Women and Children’s Health

Written by jhcadmin

September 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm

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