The global burden of NCDs – time for UK leadership

The first event convened by the UK Working Group on NCDs was a parliamentary briefing, held in Portcullis House on 16 May 2018: ‘The global burden of NCDs – time for UK leadership’. The aim was to investigate how the UK’s leadership positions in international development and research could be brought to bear on the mismatch between the burden of NCDs and the development assistance available for these diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Participants were drawn from the UK Working Group on NCDs, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, the Department of Health, Public Health England and the Department for International Development.

Lord Nigel Crisp, the co-chair of the APPG on Global Health, opened by setting out the global burden of NCDs: three-quarters of deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income settings. But he also highlighted that the UK also has much to learn from LMICs: a ‘turning-the-world-upside-down’ approach. He called on participants to consider how better to engage nurses in NCD prevention, detection, early intervention and treatment.

Louise Meincke, from World Cancer Research Fund International, noted recent statements by WHO Director General Dr Tedros’ that what is lacking is implementation and political will. NCDs threaten to undermine development progress made to date in many countries – and yet just 2% of development assistance for health goes to NCDs. We need to support national governments in implementing their NCD commitments in ways that build on the UK’s experience in international development. An example of a UK-government funded programme was described by Andrew Black: FCTC 2030 is supporting 15 countries to become regional and global leaders in tobacco control over five years: ‘offering best-of-British support and resources to countries to enable them to advance tobacco control’.

Celina Gorre (Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases) commended the UK government for leading on global health research, but also called for greater implementation research – e.g. around evidence for effectiveness of the Best Buys in NCDs in low-income countries.

Discussion included: the need to build capacity in partner countries; other sources of funding (such as the Prosperity Fund, a Foreign & Commonwealth Office initiative that includes £80 million for programmes with an NCD focus across eight countries); how to better coordinate the UK’s many assets to use our influence constructively; and the opportunity to use the diversity of our healthcare workforce (drawn from diasporas all over the world) as a global resource from which the UK can learn.

Finally, there was a call for the UK government to put itself forward at the forthcoming UN High-level Meeting on NCDs as a ‘gold standard partner’, rather than a government that ‘funds and forgets’.

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