We Can Live Longer, Healthier Lives. So Why Don’t We?

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by Thea

“Let’s talk about non-communicable diseases,” I might say to you.

“Omigod, I am sick to death of talking about NCDs,” you totally would not say. “If I hear one more world leader outlining a clear plan to address them, I’m simply going to scream,” you would never add.

The acronym may be new to you. And you may not have heard of them grouped this way, but NCDs are diseases like cancer, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular illness. The kind of sick you get for a long time. That didn’t come from a mosquito, or a bad drink of water, or physical contact with someone infected. The kind of sick that… wait for it… causes two out of every three deaths worldwide.

Let me repeat that last bit:

NCDs cause two out of every three deaths worldwide.

At this point, let me issue a prominent and exciting Disclaimer:
I’m a consultant and one of my primary clients is Arogya World – a small nonprofit dedicated to fighting NCDs. They pay me to work on their website and social media stuff, but no one at Arogya asked me to write this post, and they did not review it. I did not receive any special compensation for this essay, though I’m pretty confident that they’re not unhappy about it.

But back to the issue at hand…

The problem is that NCDs are like furniture.

NCDs are a group of everyday diseases that impact everyone around the world. They’re everywhere. They attack the rich and the poor alike. You know people who have or had cancer. Heart disease is ubiquitous. Stroke threatens us all. Diabetes is on the rise.

These diseases are largely preventable and treatable, and we’re still dying from them by the millions. In fact, more of us are dying from them each year.

And global health professionals have made it boring.

They keep talking to one another – going on about “engaging with stakeholders,” “outreaching to civil society.” It’s my job and it puts me to sleep. What do you or I care about their stakeholders, or policy elites?

The World Health Organization (WHO) did an awesome little video on NCDs that started off strong:

  • NCDs kill 36 million people every year.
  • Nine million of those before the age of 60, when they should be working and taking care of their families.
    And the kicker:
  • These diseases are largely preventable.

They totally blow it at the 47 second mark, though. There, they talk about engaging government, private sector and civil society. Snore.

You can see the video here: Unite in the fight against NCDs

18 million women die from NCDs each year.

Arogya World and a bunch of other partners started a petition that they will bring to the UN Summit on NCDs later this month. Their goal is to gather 10,000 women’s signatures demanding real, tangible commitments to helping people live longer, healthier lives. Commitments like educating people on healthy living and disease prevention, promoting sports and physical activity, taxing tobacco and alcohol products and reducing the marketing of junk food to children.

This is only the second time the UN has had this kind of meeting on a health topic, and the other one was HIV/AIDS, another acronym that didn’t used to mean a lot to people. This says to me that NCDs are at least this much of a crisis.

If you care about things like cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, please consider signing on and sharing the petition with your friends.

Petition: Demand a Healthy Future, Free from Chronic Disease

Why do I care?

On my own site I’ve been blogging about what a rat-bastard cancer is for a couple of years now (but less politely). I want my daughter to be at a lower risk of getting cancer than I am. I want her not to linger, suffer and die from the lymphoma that took my grandfather, or the lung cancer that took my grandmother – six weeks before she could have met her first great grandchild. I don’t want my kid to have to shave my head, like I shaved my mother’s when she was being treated for breast cancer. I don’t want my daughter to want because I got sick and can’t work. I want her heart to be healthy and her lungs strong so she can kick butt and take names. I want her to live for a million years, and to rock all of them.

We have the tools to live longer and healthier lives. We just have to make it happen. That’s why I signed.

Here’s that link again.

Petition: Demand a Healthy Future, Free from Chronic Disease

This post has been cross-published in a couple of places.