ODA and NCDs in an era of COVID-19: report, event and policy recommendations

This blog marks the culmination of a six-month project looking at the place of NCDs within overseas development assistance in the UK, in the context both of recent cuts to the aid budget and of COVID-19. People with lived experience of NCDs have been at its heart: a report was commissioned from consultants who themselves are people living with NCDs and the event at which the report was launched was moderated and led by people with lived experience – an opportunity for UK government colleagues to hear different (and vitally important) voices.  

In August 2021, the UK Working Group on NCDs was awarded a grant from the NCD Alliance’s Civil Society Solidarity Fund for NCDs and COVID-19 to enhance the integration of the knowledge, experience and passion of people with lived experience of NCDs into our work. The specific context has been the unique coupling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent very significant cuts to the UK aid budget: even before these cuts, NCDs had accounted for only a tiny part of global overseas development assistance for health.

Their research included a survey that was completed by 33 NCD organisations around the world – and as the blog on the findings and the report itself note, the findings confirmed what WHO has already found: that NCDs are a major out-of-pocket expense that plunges many into poverty and that access to services during COVID-19 have been significantly affected. Spending on NCDs within development funding is also difficult to unpick – spending across a wide range of areas (climate change, infectious disease, maternal and child health and many more – see image below) can all have co-benefits for NCDs. But this project has been particularly well timed because it coincides with the release of the FCDO’s new Health Systems Strengthening Position Paper, which will help to direct the UK government’s approach to global health – and, as our paper notes, health systems strengthening is fundamental to improvements in NCD prevention and treatment.

NCDs hidden in plain sight

The report was launched on 12 January 2022 at an online meeting, co-hosted by UKWG member Action for Global Health. It shared the experience and expertise of around 30 NCD experts from around the world with colleagues from the FCDO and Department of Health and Social Care, and was moderated and led by people with lived experience of NCDs – a unique opportunity to hear the voices of those most affected.

The event was also an opportunity to present a set of policy recommendations on NCDs and UK ODA, which the UKWG has drawn up as part of the funded project. These recommendations will be further refined, but include ensuring the meaningful involvement of people living with NCDs in policy planning and implementation of FCDO programmes, increased transparency of NCD funding, recognising NCDs through the lifecourse, and encouraging the UK government to take a leading role in both financing of NCDs and at the next UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs that will take place in 2025.

It has been an exciting six months, and our thanks go to the NCD Alliance for the funding that has enabled it to happen. As we move into 2022, the UKWG is looking forward very much to continuing the discussion with government colleagues and to drawing on the new contacts we have been able to forge with NCD alliances and people with lived experience of NCDs worldwide.

My personal thanks go to the report authors (Dr Zipporah Ali and Dr Helena Davies), the steering committee on the project (particular thanks to Claire Morris, WHPCA), to our project manager (Victoria Tayler), to the report designer (Theresa Wilds), and to all who so graciously gave their time and expertise participating in the January event – Katy Cooper, chair, UKWG

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