NCD Judgement day: Asteroids or Amputations?

I was thinking this morning on how we react to shared impending calamity (or challenge). The Allies worked together to battle a shared enemy in WWII. The Manhattan Project was an example of this (for better or worse). We worked together within the USA to reach the moon (as a challenge from Sputnik and our then-adversaries in the USSR).  I am sure that if we faced a shared disaster such as a killer asteroid, we’d all probably team up to nudge that rock into someone else’s orbit. 
Where, then, is the shared sense of urgency when confronted with Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs)? I would argue that this is no less a threat than an army amassing at our collective border. As we now have better access to fighting disease, we are now fighting (as Steve Jones of the UK Stem Cell Foundation might put it) not disease, but decay. This era of decay will cost us (based on recent World Economic Forum data) $47 trillion dollars between now and 2030. That’s more cells (by the way) than we have in our bodies (by a dozen trillion or go– give or take).

This NCD issue is then, I would argue, no less significant than other calamities. The problem is that it is quiet, sinister and relatively slow. We as a species appear to react much better to big, loud and immediate. We like “clear and present dangers”. This is less clear, omnipresent, and enormously dangerous. Have we collectively matured enough to pay attention? I hope so. 

The UN, partnering with International Diabetes Federation, World Heart Federation, the UICC (Cancer) and Union against lung disease  have formed the NCD alliance. This is a huge step forward. That said, where is the funding? Where are the banners? The shovel-ready projects? The stump speeches?  I can guarantee you that without these– and the shared sense of urgency– the only stump speeches we will see will be by our children: the amputees on dialysis with cardiovascular disease. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.