Global leaders, including many from the field of health, gathered to focus on how to achieve a future of sustainable healthcare at the World Healthcare Forum in The Hague, Netherlands, 28-29 November.
The Union’s Executive Director, José Luis Castro, delivered a speech ‘The Growing Pandemic of Non-Communicable Disease’ underlining the looming crisis posed by inaction on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This ‘crisis of our own creation’ threatens to be a crisis in public healthcare – but with critical ramifications across society:
“The economic and social cost of NCDs greatly exceeds their medical costs. The cost of inaction on NCDs far outweighs the price of their reduction”, Mr Castro told the forum.
“NCDs not only affect individuals and families, they affect economies and health systems through reduced work productivity, a higher medical burden, and lost savings. These effects compound poverty and inequality worldwide.”
He outlined the challenges posed by the preventable harms of tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity and polluted air. Together these claim the lives of more than 43 million people each year; a burden that amounts to more than 70 percent of deaths globally.
Mr Castro suggested to delegates that a key way to lessen this burden is through innovative collaboration:
“Public health departments and civil society organisations must extend themselves beyond their traditional partnerships. Medical societies and healthcare organisations, for example, can be allies in advocating for changes in legislation, international health agendas, national and local health policies, and resource allocation.”
Mr Castro cited recent successes in the Philippines where a tax on tobacco and alcohol has been implemented. He said that this tax “would never have happened without the involvement of the Ministry of Finance along with the health ministry.”
In conclusion, he reminded the attendees that tackling the threat of NCDs is crucial for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals set by the World Health Organization for 2030, and he reiterated a call for co-operation to throw off the terrible burden of NCDs borne by the world, but particularly those most in need:
“In Africa, as I’m sure you know, they say: ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’
“The time has come for us to not only go far, but also to go as quickly as we can. The health and well-being of the world urgently depend upon it.
“As the leaders of the sectors that will make the greatest impact in global health we must act now, we must act swiftly, and most importantly, we must act together.”