http://bbccaribbean.com

UN to tackle cancer, heart disease

Impressive leadership - that's how an article in the leading medical journal, The Lancet, has termed the Caribbean Community's (Caricom) campaign against so-called non-communicable diseases.

These lifestyle diseases, which include cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease, account for 60% of all deaths, according to the United Nations.

Caricom nations co-led a lobby that secured UN backing for a global summit on combating these diseases.

That summit will be held in September and will "give these diseases the recognition and response they deserve", said the article drawn up by the NCD Alliance - a coalition that includes the International Diabetes Federation and the World Heart Federation.

'Rich man's problem'

It said: "The NCD Alliance was one of the earliest voices calling for a UN High-level Meeting on non-communicable diseases in May, 2009.

"Under the impressive leadership of Caribbean Community member states, the Alliance has worked with a wide range of partners and allies to coordinate the global advocacy effort which led to its unanimous passage."

Jamaica's UN ambassador Raymond Wolfe is acting as one of the co-facilitators of the conference with the task of drawing up what the UN calls " a concise and action-oriented outcome document".

Last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "chronic diseases used to be seen as a 'rich man's problem'."

"Not anymore," he added. "Unhealthy lifestyles are going global. 85% of people who die from non-communicable diseases are in the developing world."

In 2007, Caricom held its own heads of government health summit after revealing that stroke, cancer and diabetes were the main causes of death in the Caribbean.

'Measurable commitments'

The common risk factors are tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.

"If governments and aid agencies continue to ignore this threat, we will sleepwalk into a future in which healthy people will be in a minority, obese and unhealthy children die before their parents, and economic development and already vulnerable health systems are overwhelmed," the NCD Alliance said.

The group is urging governments to allocate more resources to improve prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and care of diseases.

"We must work tirelessly to ensure that the outcomes statement from the UN meeting contains measurable commitments for which leaders can be held to account," said the Alliance, which claims to represent over 880 member associations in 170 countries.