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Actions, Not Just Promises to Combat Cancer Worldwide

September 23, 2011

Dr. Seffrin attended the United Nations High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases as a member of the U.S. delegation earlier this week in New York City.

I have long looked forward to the United Nations High-level meeting on Noncommunicable Diseases like cancer this week – not only for the unique gathering of world leaders it brought together to tackle the cancer problem, but also for the once-in-a lifetime opportunity to simply tell our story on a global scale.

There is a story to be told about chronic disease, and it is both incredibly compelling and heartbreaking. The representatives from nations from far reaches of the globe told it, when they spoke during the UN meeting this week, highlighting the deadly toll NCDs have taken in their countries, the actions they’ve taken to combat them, and in many cases, outlining the areas in which they need help to fight them further.

The story was told in the pages of the Political Declaration, a document the United Nations unanimously approved during its opening session in the High-level Meeting, which gives us a road map for action to make a real difference in fighting NCDs worldwide. This document is a critical first step, and I’m so glad it includes strong language on cancer and tobacco control.

But telling the story is not enough. World Health Organization Director General Dr. Margaret Chan called this meeting a “wake-up call” in her opening remarks on Monday – and I couldn’t agree more. Now that the world’s leaders are awake and listening, we must seize this opportunity to act, quickly, to fight these diseases. Not just because we face terrible consequences in the future if we do not, but because NCDs are already killing 36 million people every year – 63 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Governments worldwide must be held accountable to the plans laid out at this meeting – and that’s something that requires commitment and collaboration from nonprofits like my organization, the private sector, and governments themselves, each of which bring unique skills and roles to this fight.

A great example of this is a collaboration we announced this week at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting to help promote smoke-free workplaces worldwide. I was privileged at this meeting to be honored by former President Bill Clinton, alongside other collaboration partners – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Mayo Clinic, Johnson & Johnson, and Global Business Coalition on Health.

Overall, whether or not we succeed – and I believe we will – the exciting thing is that we are up to bat. We know what will happen if we intervene … and we know what will happen if we don’t. We are facing a tsunami of NCDs in this century, which will cripple emerging economies and cause millions upon millions of preventable deaths. Yet we know how to save more lives from these diseases – we simply must act.

This is the most important untold story. Now that the world’s leaders are awake, it is where we go from here that matters.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 16, 2011 1:39 am

    The United Nations report on Chronic Diseases in the developing world certainly backs up the concerns in this article.

    And rightly so – Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are the three big ones mentioned in the UN report. It is because cancers are caused by carcinogenic substances and there is even less control of them in developing nations than here in North America, we can expect cancer to become an even worse epidemic in the developing world than it is in North America [where cancer deaths continue to rise in lock-step with increasing numbers of people getting cancer].

    More than any other factor, it is addressing the CAUSE of cancers that will produce the most satisfying results in this battle. Overwhelmingly, that cause is carcinogenic substances. Other than reducing exposures to those substances there is little hope that the upward cancer trend ill be reversed, in anyone’s world.

    The goal of “surviving with cancer for five years” is not what people expected cancer researchers to be focused on, it sounds more like a talking point or a corporate slogan that a fight against a deadly enemy wrought of our own reckless industrial chemistry experiments – we want to live and die without cancer. I guess we don’t allways get what we want… [so why do they?] [who? you know… the Elite wealthy].

    Occupy Cancer Research!!

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