New centre sets out to better coordinate research into non-communicable diseases

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 25 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2994
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

A global initiative designed to strengthen research into non-communicable diseases and improve collaboration between rich and poorer countries has been launched in London.

The Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine aims to foster new studies and ensure research evidence is acted upon by policymakers.

Neil Pearce, its director, said, “Non-communicable diseases are becoming incredibly important globally, and while there’s a lot happening it’s not particularly well coordinated.

“We need researchers in different diseases and different countries—low, middle income, and high income—to communicate more with each other. We can achieve much more by working together, both to take action on the problems for which solutions already exist, and to research the problems for which solutions are not yet clear.”

Initially, the centre brings together the work of more than 50 experts conducting research in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific, and in the UK.

It was launched on 25 April at a conference, held at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, entitled Global Non-Communicable Disease: from research to action.

Peter Piot, director of the school, said non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease, had long been a major cause of mortality and morbidity in high income countries and were now reaching epidemic levels in the developing world.

He said this had “potentially catastrophic consequences” for global health and coordinated efforts were required to translate research into effective action.

The new centre will coordinate multi-centre, interdisciplinary grant proposals focused on global non-communicable diseases and be an international training centre in research on non-communicable diseases.

It will examine themes including how globalisation is both benefiting and harming health with regards to non-communicable diseases, the effectiveness of health and public health interventions.

Shah Ebrahim, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at the school who will work with the centre, stressed the need for an integrated approach.

He told the BMJ, “If we want to understand why tobacco consumption is high, why alcohol consumption is high, why obesity varies between countries and within countries, we have to look at some of the political factors that determine these distributions.

“Those of us who profess different disciplines relevant to non-communicable diseases globally will be able to interact, write papers together, develop teaching programmes together and do cross-disciplinary work.”

Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Heart Federation and a member of the NCD Alliance Steering Group, said the launch of the centre was a “significant” step towards strengthening evidence and ensuring wider collaboration to tackle non-communicable diseases.

She told the BMJ, “In order to build on the momentum and realise the potential of the political declaration and the UN high level meeting [on non-communicable diseases, September 2011], we need to be thinking very long term about trained leaders for the next 10 to 40 years.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2994