Geneva Health Forum: How Frontliners are Tackling NCDs

Posted on: April 26th, 2012 by Nalini

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Geneva Health Forum. This three-day global health meeting brought together frontliners from around the world, global policymakers, mostly Europe-based, industry and civil society to discuss how we should address NCDs. Hats off to Dr. Slim Slama and others who worked hard to put together panels and group discussions that were both thought-provoking and offered a rich array of perspectives.

Some highlights:

  1. We all got to see and hear Dr. Oleg Chestnov, the new Assistant Director General of WHO, in charge of NCDs and Dr. Nick Banatvala, his senior advisor.
  2. We heard the sage and profound remarks from philosopher Dr. Sridhar Venkatapuram who asked each of us not to duck the tough ethical questions in global health, but to confront them in every day work.
  3. I especially liked the session where Andy Williamson, a musician from England who lives with chronic kidney disease, told us how he extracts his positive outlook on life, in the midst of dialysis and kidney transplants.

We learned that:

  • In the case of chronic diseases, patients are a big part of the healthcare force.
  • Innovation means not just using technology, it is also innovative methodology and indeed attitude – it includes a willingness to fail.
  • Life expectancy for American adolescents today is less than for previous generations.
  • It is the chronicity of diseases that is important, not whether they are communicable or non-communicable.

Several of the sessions were particularly impressive, and did a great job of engaging the audience.   It was exciting to see policymakers, frontliners, civil society and industry participants get an equal platform to promote their unique perspectives on a broad range of topics related to NCDs.  Also, the size of the conference meant that we were able to meet and get to know each other.

I was included as a panelist at the plenary on Innovation, which was webcast live, where I presented our mDiabetes program and first results, and at a couple of other sessions.’I’m happy to share here the slide decks we presented.

Many of us felt that the Geneva Health Forum mobilized the NCD community, giving us a much-needed jolt in advance of the World Health Assembly less than a month away, when many big decisions will be made on NCDs and targets. This experience also allowed us to refocus our minds on NCDs and sustainability on the road to Rio.