Anybody heard about the first-ever upcoming United Nations (UN) High-Level Summit Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), in which heads of state from around the world will meet in New York City on Sept. 19 and 20? Um, we're not sure President Obama has either, and that's very bad news for diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).
IDF approached a bunch of us D-bloggers and online advocates at the Roche Social Media Summit in June, asking us to help lobby for the president to attend this new event, which they describe as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt a global epidemic that is killing and disabling millions of people, impoverishing families, and undermining economic progress."
Remember that "O for Outrage" postcard campaign we introduced? That was / is our effort to turn Obama's attention to the "NCD Crisis" and invest some time in this Summit — although he's in the midst of an economic policy crisis and one of the most difficult moments of his Presidency. Rough going...
For some background: communicable diseases such as AIDS have played a much larger role on the world's worry stage, while coping with the four major non-communicables — diabetes, cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease — has been largely left to individual nations, many of which are heart-breakingly ill-equipped to manage them. Taken together, these four major illnesses make up the world's No. 1 killer!
The IDF has also crafted a passionate Open Letter to the President (see below), garnering more than 80 signatures from physicians, policy-makers, advocates, and other leaders in the diabetes community. (Over 300 million people worldwide have diabetes alone, and that figure will reach half a billion within a generation if we do not act now!)
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The letter includes a two-page document suggesting proposed outcomes — from things as "simple" as: "Develop and implement policies for urban design to include safe open spaces and encourage walking, cycling and other physical activities" to monumental hurdles like: "By 2015, establish and strengthen national health information systems (including registries) for monitoring and evaluation of NCDs and risk factors and morbidity/mortality statistics by cause."
But according to experts, the Summit event itself has hit a snag. Medscape reports that "negotiations over (a broader) outcomes document for discussion at the Summit have hit a wall, with the United States and the European Union opposing many of the target-oriented resolutions on the grounds that they would be responsible for the bulk of the action items."
The British Medical Journal blog details further problems, including "sticking points" over trade agreements on intellectual property and medicines, possible lobbying from tobacco, alcohol, and food companies (!), and logistical problems — as of Aug. 10, invitations had not yet gone out to a number of high-level target attendees. Has Obama even gotten his yet?!
Still, they report that the very existence of the Summit has already made an impact. "It has raised consciousness about NCDs among governments and other organizations and prompted spirited debates on how best to respond."
Want to get involved, to lobby for better policies on diabetes? According to my buddy Manny, here's what you can do:
1) If you can be in New York City on Sept. 18 - the day before the Summit begins - please join a group of advocates for an event called UNITE for A Healthy Future. The cancer, heart and lung disease communities will be represented, and diabetes cannot afford to NOT have a big presence there!
2) Numerous activities are scheduled in and around Central Park, including cycling and walk events, a parade, and live mural painting. See this list - some are looking for a group or individual(s) to "own" them. If interested, please contact IDF communications director Isabella Platon.
3) If you can't be in NYC, you can still make a splash spreading awareness of this campaign by tweeting or blogging about it as often as possible between now and Sept. 18. Look for / use the following twitter hashtags:
and don't forget: #diabetesoutrage
** UPDATE 8/17/11 **
The Plot Thickens:
The NCD Alliance itself is in the process of issuing a press release complaining about how some UN member states are "jeopardis(ing) international progress on the non-communicable disease epidemic." These nations have made "recent efforts... to postpone and weaken United Nations negotiations" on NCD policies, presumably because they want to avoid the economic and logistical burdens of taking action. Grrrr.
The IDF is calling for public outcry under the hashtag #NCDs25by2025 !