A Pluralistic Approach to Non-Communicable Diseases

Bridging the gap between food and agriculture and public health
Apr 18, 2017 9:10 AM ET

More than five years have passed since the 2011 United Nations high-level meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are a leading cause of mortality worldwide, responsible for more than 30 million deaths annually. These diseases alone place an enormous burden on health systems, representing $2 trillion a year in health costs, and the projected toll in lost economic output by 2030 is a staggering $47 trillion. Beyond the impacts on economic output, NCDs will continue to deepen poverty and impede our collective ability to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The complex and challenging NCDs landscape is affected by many risk factors and social determinants related to food and agriculture. Factors such as malnutrition, obesity, and food insecurity all contribute to NCD prevalence. Nevertheless, there is no one multi-stakeholder platform that enables a cooperative dialogue about the link between food and agriculture and public health. The current debate on NCD prevention and control is therefore subject to tensions among stakeholders – particularly between civil society and the private sector. These divisions complicate and undermine efforts to both understand and solve the NCD challenge. An effective response must instead move from conflict to finding synergies and establishing collaboration because no single type of stakeholder can solve the problem by itself.

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