The big global health meeting at the United Nations has come and gone I still can’t quite tell if anything actually happened.
Maybe that’s normal, when it comes to how things get done at the UN.
After all, the Obama Administration has said if the UN were to recognize Palestine as a state, it would be “merely symbolic.” And yet they’re still fighting like hell to keep it from happening.
I came to New York to cover a meeting called the UN High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, which concluded yesterday. This was billed as a historic moment in global health, only the second time the UN has held such a meeting. The last one, in 2001, launched the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria — a massive, if imperfect, effort that has saved millions of lives.
The aim of this week’s special session on global health at the UN General Assembly meeting is potentially even more significant than it may sound.
On the surface, it was a call to expand the already strained global health agenda to include non-infectious killers like cancer, diabetes and heart disease — the NCDs (or non-communicable diseases). That’s a big deal because it adds a lot to the agenda, given that chronic diseases kill more people (about 36 million per year) than AIDS, TB and malaria combined.
But it may be even bigger than that.
If you dig a little deeper here, this is the big — mostly unspoken — question: Is this move to get chronic disease on the agenda actually a move away from the standard disease-oriented approach to global health — and toward a more “systems” approach? Continue reading