Health and NCDs a priority in the UN High-Level Panel report on post-2015

Categories: Policy.

The report sets out a preliminary universal agenda to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and deliver on the promise of sustainable development.
 
This report of the 27-member panel, which was co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is based on a nine month consultation period with more than 5,000 civil society groups in 121 countries. The NCD Alliance, in collaboration with many partners and network members, has provided significant input through the national, regional and global thematic consultations that have informed the deliberations of the HLP.
 
The NCD Alliance welcomes the focus on health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the HLP report. It recognises that health outcomes can only be achieved by ensuring equity in all three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – and through steady progress in achieving universal health coverage (UHC).
 
The report provides an illustrative framework of 12 goals and 51 indicators for post-2015. We welcome the inclusion of a stand-alone health goal to “ensure healthy lives”, alongside other ambitious goals such as to “end poverty”, “empower women”, and “ensure food security and good nutrition”.
 
Significantly for the NCD community, the report reaffirms NCDs as a global development challenge and an issue deserving universal attention. NCDs feature alongside other global health priorities as one of the five targets for heath, articulated as ”reduce the burden of disease from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and priority non-communicable diseases”.
 
Although the HLP report is only one milestone in the road towards 2015, this recognition of NCDs as a priority for development represents significant progress. Since its inception in 2009, the NCD Alliance has been leading the call for the inclusion of NCDs in the MDG successor goals. It would simply not have been possible without the 2011 UN High-Level Summit on NCDs, which put an international spotlight on this global emergency. And the elevation of NCDs from being a neglected epidemic to being prioritised in this HLP report is testament to the sheer determination and unity of the global NCD community in driving this agenda forward.  
 
The report also successfully recognises that the new framework must be universal, applying to countries in the global North and South alike; that sustainable development must be at the core of the agenda; and that the health goals must continue the unfinished business of the current MDGs on child and maternal death, and infectious diseases, and sexual reproductive health rights. All of these are critically important for global development in their own right, but also essential in accelerating progress on the prevention and control of NCDs.
 
Many of these recommendations closely align with the recently launched NCD Alliance vision for health in the post-2015 agenda, entitled “Healthy Planet, Healthy People.”

But there is still a lot of work to be done. Although the HLP report is a good start from a health and NCD perspective, there is room for improvement in this proposed framework. For example, the definition and description of NCDs in the report needs to be strengthed and aligned with the WHO definition, and there is a lack of focus on the major NCD risk factors and their social determinants. Also, although the food security and nutrition goal focuses on reducing unsustainable consumption, which links to the healthy eating, physical inactivity and NCDs agendas, currently obesity is not proposed as a target. This is a missed opportunity. The evidence clearly demonstrates that both stunting and overweight/obesity need to be tackled together.
 
The NCD Alliance is producing a more detailed analysis of the HLP report with key advocacy messages, and we will share this with our network shortly. Also, our webinar on Tuesday 4th June will be an opportunity to further review this important report, and discuss next steps.
 
But for now, just one week after the decisions made at the World Health Assembly, let’s enjoy another important milestone in the global NCD response. The NCD agenda is finally being integrated into the global development agenda.