September 19, 2011, New York. Today, as world leaders gather at the United Nations for a historic health-focused summit to plan the world’s response to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), thousands from around the world are demanding action. These women — and some men — from more than 95 countries are signatories on an online petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/women-demand-a-healthy-future-free-of-chronic-disease), the first activity of a new movement, Women for a Healthy Future. The petition is still open – we encourage women to sign.
Alarmed at the rising impact of NCDs, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and lung diseases, those who have signed this petition are asking government and business leaders to take action now to ensure a healthy future for women and children. The petition letter (see attached) demands that sweeping changes be made in policy and the way business is conducted to reduce the vulnerability of women and children to NCDs.
Started by Arogya World, Women for a Healthy Future is a collaborative effort with 11 other global health and women-focused organizations: Global Health Council, Women Deliver, World YWCA, NCD Alliance, NCD Child, NCD Action, Public Health Institute, Hriday, The Max Foundation, Disruptive Women in Health Care and Beyond Sport. Believing that world leaders should focus their attention on women, children and young people to best tackle NCDs globally, these organizations have joined forces in the spirit of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Every Woman, Every Child” agenda to mobilize women against NCDs.
“NCDs are the number one killer of women worldwide, and children and young people today face an uncertain, unhealthy future with the exploding NCD crisis. World leaders have an obligation to address the serious impact of these chronic diseases on women and children,” said Nalini Saligram, founder of Arogya World. “But individual citizens can make a difference too. As heads of households, women in particular are key decisions makers with regard to the food a family eats and its levels of physical activity. It is our generation’s responsibility to fix the NCD crisis, and women can lead the way.”
Women for a Healthy Future are outraged at the injustice of the disproportionate effect of NCDs in developing countries. Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, Director General of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Jordan, a passionate advocate for NCDs and the mother of a cancer survivor, says, “We have to impart on world leaders the need for consolidating the political will to decisively address the harsh disparity in NCD treatment between the developed and the developing world.” She also says: “The chance for a cure, the chance to live, should not be an accident of geography or demographics.”
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of World YWCA and an eloquent champion of women’s rights says, “NCDs are a women’s rights and empowerment issue. Though all people the world over are susceptible to the threat of these chronic diseases, they impact girls and women differently, directly affecting their health, their role as caregivers, their livelihoods, and their children’s future. It’s time the world stood up to take care of women, because women in turn take care of the whole world.”
After the UN Summit, Women for a Healthy Future will continue to mobilize women from around the world in the fight against NCDs. Educational materials empowering women to help their children and families make healthy choices will be developed and distributed. We are also planning a survey on women’s perspectives on NCDs, chronicling the views of about 1000 women from around the world on what they see as key priorities that policymakers and businesses should act on. Finally, we will marshal the power of women to advocate at local and global levels with government and business leaders and make lasting change.
Why We Started the Petition
NCDs are changing the global health agenda as we know it, causing two out of three deaths in the world today. We feel it is time to face them head on and come up with practical ways to address this global crisis.
We believe NCDs are a social justice issue. 80% of deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries, where people have lower access to medicines, health care, and healthy lifestyles. NCDs can push families into poverty, and poverty in turn worsens NCDs.
We are alarmed that 50,000 women die from NCDs every single day. Girls and women are at a particular disadvantage for getting chronic diseases, as 60% of the world’s poor are women, and many are malnourished, uneducated and sometimes don’t have ready access to prevention efforts such as sports due to cultural stereotypes.
We are also fiercely concerned about the future of our children. Children have a right to health, and they deserve a promising future. We see that NCDs are eroding and threatening that future.
Surely something can and must be done. These are among the reasons that led to the petition.
About Arogya World: Arogya World is a US based non-profit organization, committed to changing the course of chronic disease, one community at a time. Women for a Healthy Future is the organization’s key global advocacy effort. Arogya World is also working on diabetes prevention through lifestyle changes in India, where school-based and mobile health programs are currently in progress. See www.arogyaworld.org.
For more information contact: Arogya World: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com; NCD Child, a project managed by CLAN: firstname.lastname@example.org; NCD Action: email@example.com; NCD Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org; Global Health Council: email@example.com; Women Deliver: firstname.lastname@example.org; World YWCA: email@example.com.
Petition letter: We Demand a Healthy Future, Free of Chronic Disease
To: Government and Business Leaders from Around the World
NCDs, non-communicable diseases, are one of this century’s greatest health and development challenges. These diseases are the leading cause of death for women and threaten our children’s future. Yet NCDs are largely preventable: stopping tobacco, increasing physical activity and eating a healthy diet can prevent 80% of heart disease and diabetes and 40% of cancer. As gatekeepers of the food our families eat and the physical activities they engage in, we believe that women are a powerful part of the solution to the NCD crisis and deserve an important seat at the table.
We think that great strides can be made in the fight against NCDs if world leaders focus on women and children. This September, as you gather at the United Nations to discuss the global impact of the NCD crisis, we, women from around the world, ask you to: Reduce the vulnerability of women and children to NCDs.
We call on you to –
- Educate women
- About healthy pregnancies, safe childbirth, and the dangers of low birth weight. This will both save lives today, and help to prevent NCDs in future generations.
- That checkups, screenings and early diagnosis are key to saving lives.
- Help women live healthy lives
- Address inequities in healthcare access, treatment and care. Survival should not be an accident of income and geography.
- Make real investments to understand and address critical gender-specific differences in morbidity and mortality from diseases including NCDs.
- Increase access to clean cookstoves the world over.
- Help us to make the next generation healthier. Our children have a right to health and a promising future.
- We ask for your commitment to reduce the marketing of calorie-dense foods high in salt, fat or sugar, ie “junk” foods, and tobacco and alcohol to children and adolescents.
- Tax tobacco products. Ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools. Take big steps to reduce salt intake, in consultation with multiple stakeholders, with legislation if needed.
- Promote and enable participation in sports and fitness activities among children and adolescents, especially girls.
The cost of inaction is far higher than the cost of action. Sweeping changes to policy and the way we do business are needed NOW to ensure healthy futures for women and children.
Together, we can, and must, change the course of chronic disease, one community at a time. This is our responsibility. The status quo is not OK. The future of our children — and that of the children of the future — is at stake.
Women for a Healthy Future