Where Is The Urgency For Treating Disastrous Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)?

David G. Armstrong DPM MD PhD

I was thinking recently about how we react to shared impending calamity (or challenge). The Allies worked together to battle a shared enemy in World War II. The Manhattan Project was an example of this (for better or worse). We worked together within the United States to reach the moon (as a challenge from Sputnik and our then adversaries in the U.S.S.R.). I am sure that if we faced a shared disaster such as a killer asteroid, we would all probably team up to nudge that rock into someone else's orbit.

Where then is the shared sense of urgency when confronted with non-communicable diseases? I would argue that this is no less a threat than an army amassing at our collective border. While we currently have better access to fighting disease, we are now fighting (as Steve Jones of the UK Stem Cell Foundation might put it) not disease but decay. This era of decay will cost us $47 trillion between now and 2030, based on recent World Economic Forum data.1 By the way, that dollar amount equates to more cells than we have in our bodies (by a dozen trillion or so give or take).

This non-communicable disease issue is, I would argue, no less significant than other calamities. The problem is that it is quiet, sinister and relatively slow. We as a species appear to react much better to big, loud and immediate. We like "clear and present dangers." This is less clear, omnipresent and enormously dangerous. Have we collectively matured enough to pay attention? I hope so.

The United Nations, partnering with the International Diabetes Federation, the World Heart Federation, the Union for International Cancer Control and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease have formed the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Alliance (see http://www.ncdalliance.org/ ). This is a huge step forward. That said, where is the funding? Where are the banners? The shovel-ready projects? The stump speeches?

I can guarantee you that without these — and the shared sense of urgency — the only stump speeches we will see will be by our children: the amputees on dialysis with cardiovascular disease.


1. Available at http://www.weforum.org/news/non-communicable-diseases-cost-47-trillion-2... .

This blog has been adapted with permission from a previous blog that originally appeared at www.diabeticfootonline.blogspot.com .

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