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Non-Communicable Diseases

A technician holds a vile of blood drawn for testing. Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cancers are rise in developing countries.

"Once viewed as afflictions limited to the developed world, non-communicable diseases are rising quickly in low- and middle-income countries. 

"Once viewed as afflictions limited to the developed world, non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, – including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cancers – are rising quickly in low- and middle-income countries. This growing prevalence of NCDs has significant health, economic and social implications on the individual, national, and global levels," said Deputy Assistant Secretary Nerissa Cook at a recent Global Health Council meeting at the United Nations.

Nearly two-thirds of deaths in the world are now caused by non-communicable diseases. In the United States, NCDs account for 70 percent of deaths, limit the activities of tens of millions more Americans, and cost the economy billions each year. Deputy Assistant Secretary Cook says non-communicable diseases are a major world health threat:

"NCDs receive too little attention given that they now represent the greatest global disease burden to all of humankind, and given the significant cost – both human and economic – that will result from inaction or an insufficient response."

The rising tide of non-communicable diseases, says Deputy Assistant Secretary Cook, warrants strengthened action and increased focus from the international community:

"If we are effectively to reverse the increased global rates of NCDs, we will need to use all the tools at our disposal, including multi-lateral diplomacy. The United Nations has a key role to play as a convener of an international dialogue on non-communicable diseases and as a driver of action."

In light of this reality, the UN will host a high-level summit during this year's UN General Assembly to discuss how best the global community can address the growing threat of NCDs. The summit will bring together health and policy leaders from the U.S. and other governments, and various international bodies such as the World Health Organization and UNESCO to discuss strategies surrounding prevention, control, and accessible treatment of non-communicable diseases around the world.

The United States has long been a world leader in recognizing the increasing threat of non-communicable diseases and creating active measures to address the associated challenges domestically and internationally. The UN General Assembly summit will be an opportunity for the U.S. government to take this forward-thinking approach to the next level by collaborating multi-laterally with NGOs, academic entities, and the private sector to devise action-oriented solutions to this complex issue.