What Can a UN Health Summit Do?

Authors: Dean Jamison, Rachel Nugent

A United Nations high-level summit meeting on noncommunicable diseases will set priorities for addressing this major threat to the health of both developing and developed nations.

A high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) convened by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly is set to take place in New York next week. In 2008, 36 million deaths (63 percent of total) were caused by NCDs such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease (Fig. 1). These diseases are generally viewed as diseases of wealthy nations, but there has been a rapid rise in the prevalence of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries. By 2030, NCDs are projected to cause five times as many deaths as communicable (infectious) diseases, including the majority of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. At the UN high-level meeting, heads of state and health ministers from across the globe will focus on actions to prevent and control NCDs. Given that poor diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol and tobacco use are major contributors to NCDs, much effort will be directed to accelerating the implementation of effective public health interventions in both the developed and developing world. More

Nugent R, Jamison D. 2011. Commentary: Science Translational Medicine. 3(100).