This past week, I traveled to New York City to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting. More than 22 heads of state, including President Obama, were in the city as well. The security was incredible; police and barricades were everywhere, and I had to go through metal detectors and X-rays to enter my hotel. Having just recognized the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, it was obviously that the impact of that terrible day will obviously be felt for decades, if not centuries, to come.
But it was another threat to our society that was discussed at this U.N. meeting – non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which were recognized as a threat to global health. Each year, NCDs kill 36 million people worldwide. This new focus on the threat of NCDs, which include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, is critical to worldwide health.
The economic consequences of NCDs are staggering. Cumulative losses for low and middle income countries are estimated to surpass $7 trillion. Population-based measures such as reducing tobacco use through taxation and enacting clean indoor air laws, as well as reducing unhealthy eating and physical inactivity, could be delivered to these countries at a cost of about 40 cents per person per year. The same principles can be applied in the United States for about $3 per person per year. That’s a bargain if I ever saw one!
It is time for us to elevate prevention of these diseases to a new level. We owe it to ourselves to do so.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.