The Global Week of Action on NCDs is a good opportunity to write about our latest initiative, which is funded by the NCD Alliance’s Solidarity Fund for NCDs and COVID-19. This fund is helping members around the world to make the case for prioritising and investing in NCDs as part of an equitable Covid-19 response and recovery. At the UK Working Group on NCDs, we will contribute to this goal by bringing together two particularly important aspects of addressing NCDs: first, by tapping into the deep understanding of the need for action that lived experience brings,* and, secondly, by addressing the impact on global health and NCDs of the recent swingeing cuts by the UK government to overseas development assistance. These ODA cuts are frightening in their extent – ratcheting down from 0.7% of GDP to just 0.5% (coming, of course, on top of a contraction of GDP due to Covid-19). It is a broken promise by the government, which prior to the last general election had committed to maintaining the 0.7% level – and will have far-reaching consequences across myriad areas of development, including health.
The UKWG initiative will present the case for the importance of UK government investment in NCDs as a development priority in low- and middle-income countries (mirroring the importance afforded to this by the Norwegian government) – but with this case researched, written and advocated for by people with personal, lived experience of NCDs. We have appointed a project manager with considerable experience herself of caring for family with NCDs, and we are now looking for two consultants to take on the research and writing. This will provide a strong voice to advocate to the government to reconsider the aid cuts and its approach to NCDs, and act as a doorway to increased engagement of people living with NCDs in the work of the UKWG itself (including new organisational members who can bring this perspective). The consultants will be supported by the UK Working Group and at least one of the consultants will be based in the UK, so that they can be a voice for change to our own government.
This is not an easy task. NCDs have never been a priority for development assistance by the UK government in an outdated approach that does not reflect the health and economic consequences of NCDs globally. Covid-19 has laid this even more bare, as it has been evident from early 2020 that people with underlying chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity, are at particular risk of poor outcomes of Covid-19. The aim is to make clear that international development should focus on health-systems strengthening, of which chronic, non-communicable conditions are a vital part. NCDs are not diseases of affluence: they affect the poorest in society, and a failure to act is a failure of moral and economic leadership. The report for the initiative will be presented at an event to be held in December, with the lived-experience consultants making the case that NCDs matter to us at home, and NCDs should matter abroad.
* This initiative is also part of the UK Working Group’s support for the Global Charter on Meaningful Involvement of People Living with NCDs, launched on 6 September 2021 at the start of the Global Week for Action.