18 September 2012
In May 2011, I declared that diabetes was no longer the “Cinderella” of global health, but that we had bought a pair of glass slippers and were dressing for the ball. That ball, held in New York over the 19-20 September 2011, was the historic UN High-Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
This week we mark the first anniversary of the UN Summit, two days that changed the landscape of global health and development forever. It is undeniable that this Summit was a global breakthrough for diabetes and the related NCDs, raising the attention and action focused on these diseases to an unprecedented level. IDF called for a UN Summit in 2009, recognising that only government commitments in writing would secure real progress on diabetes. We united with our sister federations in the NCD Alliance to campaign for a Summit which would deliver 5 priorities – political leadership, international cooperation, prevention, treatment and accountability. One year on, I see progress on all fronts.
Governments around the world have acknowledged responsibility for diabetes in a way not seen before. The bold step taken in China – where 15 government ministries will drive a major new strategy to reduce death and disability from NCDs – is just one example of the new level of national leadership emerging. Action on prevention and treatment for people with diabetes is unfolding from Fiji to Finland, and across the entire region of the Americas.
And a true watershed has occurred within the world’s guiding authority, the United Nations (UN). Diabetes and NCDs are finally included in the leading UN agency and funds programmes, meetings and discussions on the future development goals after the MDGs expire in 2015. A global diabetes epidemic requires global solutions, and I applaud the vision and cooperation within the international community we have seen over the past year.
For me, the highlight of the post-Summit year was the breakthrough “25 by 25” target. By signing up to a 25% reduction in preventable NCD mortality by 2025, governments have committed to a worldwide reduction in preventable disease, disability and death. We finally have a global goal that we can all unite behind, and accountability for the millions of people with diabetes and NCDs who are dying before their time.
But after the fervor of the UN Summit, pressing priorities remain. Where is the urgent action for the millions of people with diabetes lacking access to basic treatment and care? Where is the money for a disease which governments affirm as one of biggest threats to development in the 21st Century? And where is the people’s movement and public outrage for a disease that kills 4.6 million people every year, mostly in poor countries? We have to be in this fight for the long haul.
Although the UN Summit was only the beginning, our movement is gaining momentum and I am proud to celebrate the remarkable progress we have seen this year. The ball may be over, but in September 2012 we are still dancing.