Setting a High Bar: The Lancet Series raises chronic diseases on the global development agenda

Posted on: November 18th, 2010 by Arogya World

On November 11, 2010, The Lancet published online a new series titled Chronic Disease as a Development Issue in preparation for the UN High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on non-communicable diseases, scheduled to take place in September of 2011. This is the third in a series of papers on chronic diseases that The Lancet has produced in the last five years.

It is wonderful that they have set themselves such a high bar, saying that “Our measure of success for this Series will be a central place for chronic disease prevention in the global development agenda during the coming year and beyond.” We think that with everyone using their platforms, personal and professional, to spread the word about NCDs and their prevention like The Lancet has, we believe this goal will be achieved.

We would like draw your attention in particular to two powerful papers in this excellent series:

First, “Raising the priority of preventing chronic diseases: a political process,” by Robert Geneau et al, makes a key point – “Low-cost and highly effective solutions for the prevention of chronic diseases are readily available; the failure to respond is now a political, rather than a technical issue.” One of the strategies they recommend to advance the prevention of chronic disease is to “reframe the debate to emphasize the societal determinants of disease and the inter-relation between chronic disease, poverty, and development.”

Another paper, “Tackling of unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and obesity: health effects and cost-effectiveness,” by Michele Cecchini et al, makes two key points:

  1. The paper shows that the obesity epidemic is spreading to low-income and middle-income countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa, as a result of new dietary habits and sedentary ways of life.
  2. The authors suggest that “several population-based prevention policies can be expected to generate substantial health gains while entirely or largely paying for themselves through future reductions of health-care expenditures. These strategies include health information and communication strategies that improve population awareness about the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity; fiscal measures that increase the price of unhealthy food content or reduce the cost of healthy foods rich in fibre; and regulatory measures that improve nutritional information or restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.”

See additional coverage in The Times of India: “India in grip of obesity epidemic.”