Non-communicable diseases hit the world's poorest people

Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) are responsible for 8 million deaths in the world’s poorest billion. NCDs - cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes - are no longer diseases of the wealthy. These were among some of the key messages from the speakers at this week’s event co -organised by the NCD Alliance1 and Partners in Health, running from March 2-3 in Boston, MA.

“The Long Tail of Global Health Equity: Tackling the Endemic Non-Communicable Diseases of the Bottom Billion,” directed attention toward non-communicable diseases among the world’s billion poorest people in advance of a United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs in September 2011, and took first steps in developing an agenda for addressing NCDs among the world’s poorest. Many of the billion poorest people have little or no access to NCD prevention, diagnosis and treatment. These diseases are resulting in premature death, intense suffering and catastrophic expenditure that pitch entire families into destitution.

Gene Bukhman, Physician, Partners in Health remarked on a noticeable increase in NCDs in low income countries “In communities where Partners in Health has been providing comprehensive, community-based care for many years, we no longer see large numbers of patients coming to the hospital suffering from HIV, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases,” he adds. “Instead, our wards are increasingly filled with patients requiring treatment for NCDs.”

Calling for international support for the world's poorest people, Jean Claude Mbanya, President of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) said “this is the time to send a loud and simple message to the Heads of State and Governments who will attend the UN Summit on NCDs. NCDs are a poverty issue and they are undermining development gains to date. We have solutions; every country can and must do something now to alleviate the burden of premature death and suffering”.

This conference is an important step in breaking the myths that surround NCDs, and demonstrates that the growing NCD epidemic should clearly be a top priority for developing country governments and development agencies.


1. An informal alliance of four international federations  (International Diabetes Federation, Union for International Cancer Control, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, World Heart Federation) representing the four main NCDs outlined in the World Health Organization’s 2008-2013 Action Plan for NCDs – cardiovascular disease, cancer , chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. These conditions share common risk factors (including tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets) and also share common solutions, which provide a mutual platform for collaboration and joint advocacy. 

Boston MA, USA