Interview: “We have the knowledge to reverse the NCD epidemic” (3 min read)
All Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases cause over 15 million premature deaths every year. Overall, they kill more than 40 million people annually. To defeat NCDs, interventions must change behavior, says Dr. Sania Nishtar. She co-chairs the WHO High-level Commission on NCDs where she works on strategies for change.
يونيو 07, 2018
Are noncommunicable diseases more dangerous than infectious diseases?
The NCD epidemic has spread silently, which makes it especially dangerous. But this is not a question of either-or. Infectious disease threats are equally pressing. I would say infectious outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, along with NCDs, are the biggest immediate threats to the collective health of people worldwide.
How important is access to information and medicines?
Educating people about how best to prevent, screen and treat NCDs is key to halting the epidemic. Here, we need to draw on behavioral science. Billions of people are connected with mobile devices, so processing power, knowledge access and data portability all converge. This could transform individual behaviors and disease management.
Dr. Sania Nishtar co-chairs the WHO High-level Commission on NCDs. She served as Pakistan’s Federal Minister in 2013.
Yet access to medicines remains crucial. There are many national and global responsibilities. Countries can increase access through NCD-appropriate Universal Health Coverage policies; the inclusion of NCD-related medicines in the National Essential Drug lists is the bare minimum that can be done.
What role do pharmaceutical companies play?
They are very important. The achievements made through infectious disease partnerships of the 1990s is evidence of what is possible.
What measures can prevent or control NCDs?
There must be a willingness to think out of the box. We need interventions that have transformative potential. For example, if the borrowing costs of countries depended on their human development rankings, ministers of finance and heads of states would pay attention to NCDs. A shift in country planning could ensue.
What will the global situation for NCDs be like in 20 years?
Never in the history of public health has there been a wider chasm between knowledge of burden of disease and how to address it versus lack of appropriate action. We have the knowledge to reverse the NCD epidemic. The global situation in 20 years depends not just on our commitment to tackle it, but also the willingness of public and private groups to work together.