The first World NCD Congress gathers leaders from across sectors in Chandigarh, India

The first World NCD Congress 2017 was held in Chandigarh, India, on 4-6 November, 2017 with the theme Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases: Realising Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The congress was jointly organised by the World NCD Federation, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and was attended by hundreds of delegates and speakers including Prabodh Bhambal, Deputy Executive Director of The Union, Dr Jamie Tonsing, Regional Director of The Union South East Asia office and Dr Rana J Singh, Deputy Regional Director- Tobacco Control and NCDs.

NCDs are estimated to account for 60 percent of all deaths in India and, alongside mental health conditions, to threaten the Indian economy with a loss of $4.58 trillion by 2030.

Shri VP Singh Badnore, Governor of Punjab, was the guest of honour at the inauguration of the three-day conference. Addressing delegates, he noted that the congress had brought together 1800 attendees, including many ministers, from more than 100 countries. He also highlighted measures being taken to combat the threat of NCDs in the nation, noting that Chandigarh has been made a Tobacco-free city.

On the last day of the congress the Governor of Haryana, Prof. Kaptan Singh Solanki, released The Chandigarh Call for Action, the Consensus Statement of the World NCD Congress (PDF 37 KB).

The Consensus Statement, which will be presented to the Health Ministry, contains a collective acknowledgment by Congress participants of the causes of NCDS and a raft of measures to reduce the numbers of NCD cases.

During the three days of the congress, sessions covered a wide range of urgent topics related to the fight against NCDs and the alignment of strategy to achieve the SDGs. A key focus was the growing epidemic of diabetes.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, currently Director-General, Indian Council for Medical and Deputy Director of Programs at the WHO, Geneva spoke of the Diabetes Prevention Survey that showed Punjab and Chandigarh to have the highest rates. She spoke of a national level intervention to address this that is being planned for launch in January 2018.

A session on the Double Burden of Diabetes and TB in India looked at how these two epidemics are interconnected.

India tops the world in both diabetes and TB, said Dr Anil Kapur Chairman of the World Diabetes Foundation. He elaborated that a patient with diabetes is at greater risk of developing TB, hence it is essential to target diabetes at the initial stages, before it leads to the onset of TB.

The Union has been rasing awareness of the co-epidemic of TB and diabetes for a number of years, including the publication of a report by The Union and the World Diabetes Foundation in 2014. The Looming Co-Epidemic of TB-Diabetes (PDF 670 KB) pulled together evidence from the medical and scientific literature as well as promoting an international policy framework for action.

Other topics discussed at the congress included the need for specialised approaches for NCD care for particular demographics and communities, with actor and Member of Parliament Ms Kirron Kher providing an insight into the topic of personalised health management for women.

Tobacco control was also a feature of debate, The Union’s Dr Rana J Singh, Deputy Regional Director, shared the organisation’s perspective on Innovations in Tobacco Control and NCDs and Dr. Vineet Gill Munish, WHO (India) spoke about the 2 per cent drop in smoking rates. In terms of the Indian population, this is a very big achievement, she emphasised. “Tobacco costs us the health of our workers and their families”, she said.

An overriding message from speakers at the congress was the need for a united and broad reach of stakeholders to have the necessary impact on NCDs.

Dr Jamie Tonsing, Regional Director, The Union South East Asia office emphasised the need for strengthening multisectoral civil society engagement and participation for effective implementation of NCD treatment saying: “this initiative has created an enabling environment for action on NCDs. Let’s seize this opportunity and make a difference.”

Speaking at a session on Building Strategic Partnerships and Raising Resources for NCDs, Prabodh Bhambal, Deputy Executive Director of The Union emphasised that mobilising resources for NCDs would require more innovative approaches in the future.

“Partnerships will need to have a multisectoral approach in which the government will need to show initiative. It cannot be left to just the Health Ministry. Also, International agencies like the UN and WHO need to set clear priorities.”

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