Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Life and Death

Seeming virtuous on chronic diseases

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 06 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4239
  1. Iona Heath, president, Royal College of General Practitioners
  1. iona.heath22{at}

Is the NCD Alliance being economical with the truth, asks Iona Heath, writing in a personal capacity

In May 2009 the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Alliance was formed with the aim of “putting non-communicable diseases on the global agenda.” It brings together four international federations: the World Heart Federation, the International Diabetes Federation, the Union for International Cancer Control, and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. The alliance also has almost 900 mostly disease specific member associations across the globe. This is a powerful organisation that “uses targeted advocacy and outreach to ensure that NCDs are recognized as a major cause of poverty, a barrier to economic development and a global emergency.” But all is not quite as it seems.

The alliance claims credit for the campaign that has resulted in the United Nations high level summit on non-communicable diseases that will take place in New York on 19-20 September. Last year, to prepare for the summit, the World Health Organization produced its Global Status Report on Non-Communicable Diseases ( In it we learn that “of the 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008, 36 million—almost two thirds—were due to NCDs, comprising mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, …

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