Mobilised and engaged civil society essential in tackling NCDs, say experts at NCD Forum

SHARJAH, 14th November, 2015 (WAM)–Experts taking part in the first ever global forum on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), have agreed that making headway in the battle against NCDs would depend on a cohesive and united civil society movement.

The comments came during the forum’s first plenary session today called “The Global NCD Response: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead”, chaired by the CEO of the World Heart Federation and Vice Chair, NCD Alliance, Switzerland Johanna Ralston.

Keynote Speaker, Professor Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation India, said, “We perceived that NCDs were neglected by leaders globally and took this as an affront but now we have to step up and assist governments in implementation and capacity building strategies to tackle NCDs.”

In outlining a way forward Professor Reddy highlighted targets for 2025 which included having member states set targets in line with WHO recommendations which are; member states to have a reliable system for generating mortality cause data; member states to have a comprehensive health survey every five years, members states to have an integrated action plan for NCDs and their risk factors and finally for member states to have implemented reduction measures as set by WHO/ FCTC at the highest level of achievement.

In closing Professor Reddy said, “We must execute the politics of presence. Are we there at Cop 21; are we there at UHC Meetings or Women’s Health Meetings or Urban Health Meetings to discuss areas of convergence? We must be present at these meetings to strengthen the health system for better control of NCDs. We need to utilise all the opportunities we have and act with resolve, mobilise political will and we need to amplify cooperation and accelerate action. NCDA lead the way. “

HRH Princess Ghida Al-Talal, Chairperson, Board of Trustees, King Hussein Cancer Foundation, Jordan said, “The role of civil society is incredibly important, as it is representing the will of society at large but it has no power if we do not work hand in hand.”

Princess Ghida outlined the work of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation which she said had made great successes in raising awareness and generating treatment programs. “In Jordan we come from a region that has has seen its healthcare infrastructure decimated. Countries surrounding us like Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Iraq all send their cancer patients to Jordan for treatment and so we have implemented cancer cost coverage campaigns to support this. This work is important as cancer has no boundaries; it affects the young or old, rich or poor so it is vital we do this work together.”

The session, that provided an overview of the up-to-date global response to NCDs including commitments, targets and adopted plans, also heard from Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Head a.i. of the Secretariat of the Global Coordination Mechanism and Interagency Task Force, WHO, Switzerland, who said, “The significance of a strong civil society movement cannot be underestimated. It is obvious we need a strong social movement to address NCDs and I applaud the NCDA for its investigation in to the strength of the civil society movement. It is also clear that the voice of the affected has to be strong to really hold governments accountable.”

The final panelist of the plenary session heard from a young person with diabetes who has pledged to use her experience to create awareness about the disease and living with an NCD. Krystal Boyea, of the IDF Young Leaders Programme, Barbados said, “I cannot underestimate the importance of having young people involved in the NCD response. This is currently overlooked in the fight against NCDs despite 70% of premature deaths being as a result of behaviors set as an adolescent or youth. This exacts a huge burden on resources and building a healthier future depends on creating interventions at this critical phase of development. Most prevention measures are not targeted towards youth so I would encourage ensuring youth participation in all policy discussions.”

The session was followed by the first workshop stream under the topic “Translating Global NCD Commitments to National Action in the Post-2015 Era” with co-chairs, Ms Johanna Ralston, World Heart Federation, Switzerland and Dr Beatriz Champagne, CLAS, Argentina, USA. The workshops sought to build upon the first plenary session and sets the global landscape for exploring how regional and national NCD advocates can translate global commitments into tangible action. Four concurrent workshops looked at four important topics: how to integrate NCDs into national development plans and frameworks; how to strengthen integration and cohesion across risk factor responses; how to capitalize on the momentum of Universal Health Coverage for NCDs; and how to advance effective multi-sector action for NCDs.

The first workshop was “Integrating NCDs into National Development Plans and Frameworks and was led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The second workshop was “Prioritising Prevention in National NCD Responses” led by the “Framework Convention Alliance (FCA); World Obesity Federation (WOF), International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH) and the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA). The third workshop was called “Leveraging Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for NCDs led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and the final concurrent workshop was “Advancing Effective Multi-sectoral Action for NCDs” led by The Partnering Initiative (TPI), and Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC).

The first ever NCD Alliance Forum is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of the Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) and International Ambassador for the World Cancer Declaration of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and International Ambassador for Childhood Cancer for UICC on 14 – 15 November 2015, at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.

Under the theme “NCD Advocacy and Accountability in the Post-2015 Era” the Forum is a collaboration between Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) and the NCD Alliance, and seeks to establish greater collaborations and focus global efforts to combat NCDs. It is convening over 200 leaders from across the globe from national and regional NCD alliances to forge a pathway in the fight against NCDs.