September is always a time of change, as summer ends and the new academic year begins. This year it also coincides with the merger of two of the UK’s government departments: the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have combined to create the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
As the new FCDO finds its feet, the UK Working Group on NCDs will shine a spotlight on non-communicable disease as a development issue, working to ensure that what focus there is on NCDs will continue – such as the FCO Prosperity Fund’s Better Health Programme – and expand. We will make the case that unless NCDs are adequately addressed, the resilience of families and economies will always be under threat. This is particularly evident in 2020, with the clear links between underlying conditions (many of which are NCDs, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity) and worse COVID-19 outcomes.
Now is the time to be talking about all this, as it is the Global Week for Action on NCDs (7–13 September), an annual campaign established by the NCD Alliance that this year focuses on ‘accountability’. As we explained in an article for the London Economic in June, we are concerned that the FCDO merger happened with no consultation with civil society; we are calling for DFID’s expertise and capacity not to be diluted, and for overseas development aid to reach the most vulnerable in society. Accountability will be key in the months and years to come. We will be advocating to the minster in charge of the new department, Dominic Raab, to express our hope that NCDs will be fully recognised as a global development concern.
This year, several Working Group member organisations are contributing to the Global Week. First, several of us got together to take part in the GPS Drawing Challenge – to run/walk/cycle/skate/swim the letters of an appropriate message using a GPS tracking app. As you can see as it illustrates this blog, ours is – appropriately enough – #ActOnNCDs UK, with individual letters from Canterbury Cathedral, Shakespeare’s grave, Liverpool, Oxford and Andalusia! We would welcome you sharing this on social media.
Among our other activities timed to coordinate with the Global Week:
- The George Institute for Global Health has launched an initiative to highlight NCD research priorities to build back better following COVID-19. The video that formed part of the launch is available and a recording of the event and a report will follow.
- Primary Care International will be releasing the latest in its op-ed series on resilient systems and healthy populations in a COVID-19 context, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on services for NCDs – and the critical role of primary healthcare in addressing this. It shares specific examples from PCI’s partner in Mozambique and co-authors include Professor Ana Mocumbi, head of NCD research at the National Institute of Health, Mozambique and co-chair of the Lancet NCDI Poverty Commission.
- World Obesity and World Cancer Research International are publishing a blog on COVID-19 as a key moment for governments to act on obesity and diet-related NCDs.
- Plan International UK has published a blog on the Young Health Programme, which focuses on NCD prevention in young people, particularly describing how scorecarding, led by youth themselves, is being used in Nairobi and Delhi to identify and address gaps in care and services.
- Several of us have made social media cards to highlight the need for urgent action and accountability on NCDs…