Geneva Health Forum Archive

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Non-Communicable Diseases and Emergencies: A Call for Renewed Action


Author(s): Alessandro Demaio1, Rebecca Horn2, Jennifer Jamieson3, Maximilian de Courten1, Ib C  Bygbjerg1, Siri Tellier1
Affiliation(s): Copenhagen School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark1, ChronAid International, Washington DC, USA2, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia3
Name your project or intiative: Non-Communicable Diseases and Emergencies: A Call for Renewed Action
1st country of focus: Denmark
Additional countries of focus: Global
Relevant to the conference theme: Non-communicable chronic diseases
Summary: In the aftermath of the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), there is now an unprecedented opportunity for a renewed call to action on the management of NCDs during and following emergencies (including natural disasters, conflict and non-conflict related emergencies). Despite some good progress in recent years, there continues to be significant gaps in the scientific evidence and technical guidelines with regards to the health effects and mitigation strategies for NCDs and emergencies. This call offers a way to advance the prevention and management of Non-Communicable Diseases in emergencies. It emphasises that NCDs should not have a token inclusion in emergency preparation and management, but rather a meaningful and integrated one that addresses the existing care gap for this vulnerable population.
What challenges does your project address and why is it of importance?: Recent years have demonstrated the devastating health consequences of emergencies and highlighted the importance of a comprehensive and collaborative approach to humanitarian responses. Simultaneously, NCDs are now increasingly recognised as a real and growing threat to population health and development: a threat that is magnified during and following emergencies.  Avoiding excess morbidity and mortality is a primary goal for humanitarian responses both in the acute phase and post-disaster phase of an emergency. NCDs, however, continue to receive limited attention from humanitarian organisations in the preparation for, and management of emergencies. To ensure continuity of care for people with NCDs in emergencies it is necessary to have a health infrastructure with resilience to disasters. This however requires some background population knowledge about prevalence of and treatment modalities for NCDs to undertake preparedness planning. Such information may often be unavailable.
How have you addressed these challenges? Do you see a solution?: This abstract calls on all sectors to recognise and address the gaps in scientific evidence with regards to NCDs in emergencies and the serious challenges posed by these two concomitant threats to health and development. More specifically, it calls for:• Systematic reviews relating to the sources and magnitude of excess morbidity and mortality from NCDs linked to emergencies;• Increased monitoring and reporting of morbidity and mortality patterns from NCDs both in the acute and post emergency phases; • Incorporation of NCDs (prevention and management) into existing emergency-related policies, standards, and resources; • Greater integration and preparation for NCDs and in health service provision including the development of evidence-based global and national guidelines on the management of NCDs in the acute and post emergency phases; • Inclusion of NCDs into training of humanitarian and emergency-response workers and planners.
How do you know whether you have made a difference?: In order to address the problems of NCDs in emergencies and minimise excess morbidity and mortality, we encourage international research, humanitarian and governing sectors to recognise and address NCDs in emergency situations. We want to facilitate research to quantify the impact NCDs have and will have on the consequences of emergency in specific countries, populations and globally; and vice versa to quantify the impact of emergencies on NCD exacerbation and complications. We furthermore call for evidence-based, global technical guidelines for the management of NCDs during and following emergencies. We urge governing and advisory bodies to incorporate NCDs into global practice in emergencies and to allocate specific funding and resources for the prevention and management of NCDs during and following emergencies. As an outcome, following our presentation, we hope to promote and facilitate a network of likeminded researchers, planners and field workers to further the agenda and contribute to the above action points.
Have you or the project mobilized others and if so, who, why and how?: The compounding morbidity and mortality burden created by NCDs during and following emergencies continue to be under-recognised, under-researched and under-resourced. We call for all sectors, including health, government, non-government and community sectors, to further acknowledge, understand, study and address the structural determinants of NCDs within emergencies. We are currently publishing a specific call to action on the theme of NCDs and emergencies, which outlines key ways forward for achieving these. In addition, we already are engaged in discussions with colleagues at the WHO Chronic Diseases Prevention and Management (CPM), Geneva; the WHO Disaster Risk Management for Health Unit, Geneva; Copenhagen School of Global Health Masters of Disaster Management Programme; ChronAid, USA; and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Community Based Health and First Aid Unit, Geneva in ways to collaborate on this topic.
When your donor funding runs out how will your idea continue to live?: As we are essentially aiming at improved planning, policies and guidelines for NCD prevention and management related to emergencies – such achievements will continue once agreed upon, adopted and implemented. The funding for research on the quantification of the compounding of NCDs and emergencies will depend on time limited research grants.