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Centres of Excellence in Developing Countries to Counter Chronic Disease

Author(s): R. Smith1
Affiliation(s): 1Director, Ovations / National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Chronic Disease Initiative, UK
Key messages:

1 – Chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and some cancers) now accounts for almost 60% of deaths worldwide - and 80% of those deaths occur in the developing world.
2 – WHO, the World Bank, and others have recognized the problem, but most resources are currently directed towards AIDS, TB, and malaria.
3 – The time has come to act to counter chronic disease because half of premature mortality is preventable, and Ovations, a health and well-being company, and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute have combined to create eight centres in the developing world to counter chronic disease.

Summary (max 100 words):

Chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and some cancers) now accounts for almost 60% of deaths worldwide—and 80% of those deaths occur in the developing world. These conditions are caused mainly by smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity and are largely preventable. The “epidemiological transition” has been recognised in developing countries, many of which must now struggle simultaneously with infectious disease and chronic disease and with undernutrition and obesity, but so far there has been little action. Although WHO and the World Bank have produced important reports on chronic disease in developing countries, most resources flow to countering aids, TB, and malaria. This is partly because of myths that chronic disease are diseases of the rich, that they affect only old people, and that nothing can be done. In fact half of premature deaths can be prevented. Ovations, a health and wellbeing company for people over 50, and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, have committed upwards of $30m in cash and kind over five years to  create centres in the developing world to counter chronic disease. In response to a request for proposals to create the centres we received 138 responses from 70 countries and have ultimately selected eight. These are in China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tunisia/Iran, South Africa/Tanzania, Central America, and the US Mexico Border. The centres will undertake a wide range of activities including community interventions for health, primary prevention, secondary prevention, disease management, capacity building, and policy promotion. Ovations and NHLBI will not simply be funding the centres but working with them.

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