Here is a question that we should all know the answer to:

What is the world’s greatest opportunity to save and improve lives by 2030?

The answer may surprise you - it’s preventing and treating noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs. The most common ones include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and mental health conditions. But there are hundreds of others like eye health conditions, oral health diseases, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and thyroid conditions.

Together, they account for 41 million deaths each year - that’s 74% of all deaths in the world - and 15 million of these are occurring in people between the ages of 30 and 70. They also cause 80% of disability in the world, and take a catastrophic toll on the economies of countries and households. And the toll of NCDs is rising fast - most of all in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Why?

It’s because most NCDs share a common denominator: the risk factors that provoke and aggravate them.

The main NCD risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and air pollution.

As exposure to these risk factors rises, so does the prevalence of NCDs.

This has been especially visible in LMICs, where these risk factors began commonly appearing just three to four decades ago. Now, they are a part of life for most people in the world. In all countries regardless of income status, the poorest and most marginalized communities are the most exposed to NCD risk factors - and therefore, the most at risk of NCDs and their consequences.

This higher exposure is not usually the result of individual choice, but rather the result of social and structural determinants. For instance, physical inactivity is often the result of not having safe or appealing outdoor areas, an unhealthy diet may be due to the prohibitively high cost of fresh foods compared to ultra-processed ones, and exposure to air pollution often comes from using unsafe cooking fuels in poorly ventilated areas, a common practice in developing countries. Health-harming industries, like those producing tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods and breastmilk substitutes, also seek out marginalized groups with aggressive marketing tactics, in relentless pursuit of “new markets” to be exploited.

The good news is that these risk factors can be modified through collective action - and progress is being made all the time. You’ll hear about it in this podcast series, where advocates and activists share their struggles and triumphs as they work towards a world where everyone enjoys an equal right to health.

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Innovation key to youth leadership on NCDs

This is our third episode on the theme of leadership and the 2025 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs (UNHLM). It features the voices of youth working to address the noncommunicable disease (NCD) emergency. “It’s really important to talk about who has the power to make decisions,” said physician Apoorva Gomber, who acted as host. All the guests agreed that youth are already acting as leaders globally but that their work needs to be better incorporated into policy-making about NCDs. The definition of leadership should also be broadened, said Swarnima Bhattacharya, founder of Gytree, which focuses on NCDs and women in India. “There are people who are working through community radio, people who are raising awareness in education, there are doctors who are building communities also… obviously youth are at the forefront because they have mobility and energy.” Looking to the UNHLM, priorities should include 1. Stronger political commitments and finances, 2. Equitable access to prevention, screening and treatment for NCDs, especially for marginalized people, and 3. Addressing commercial determinants of health, including marketing of unhealthy products, said Queen Morkporkpor Doe, from Ghana.


Published on: 18 July 2024

World Bank's 5-point approach to financing NCDs & mental health

The World Bank is co-hosting the Second global dialogue on sustainable financing for NCDs and mental health, 20-21 June 2024, in Washington DC. Ahead of the meeting we spoke with Dr Monique Vledder, Practice Manager of the Global Health, Nutrition and Population Unit at the Bank. She stressed the importance of World Bank President Ajay Banga declaring in April that the Bank intended to reach 1.5 billion people with healthcare programmes. Vledder is hoping the Dialogue helps to build consensus on policy recommendations and strategies that will feed into the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2025. “We’re just delighted that at the core of that is country leadership — there’s a very very large group of ministers of health and their senior staff joining the Dialogue to build a consensus and the recommendations for what’s next.”

Published on: 18 June 2024

Leadership starts with people living with NCDs

In this episode of Voices of the health revolution we hear about two sources of leadership that will be key as the global NCD community works toward the 2025 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs. Not surprisingly, the three speakers all point to people living with NCDs as uniquely qualified to spearhead progress. “We are not just key stakeholders but we hold a very unique expertise… that no other expert has, because we know what it’s like to live with the condition,” says Lucía Feito Allonca. 

Another source of leadership and fuel for the NCD movement is collaboration, notes Alejandro Daly, who is also deeply involved in the climate change and mental health movements. He predicts that health will become the North Star of global cooperation and multilateralism and within health, NCDs will be the focal point. Other bridges should be built with advocates working for healthy food and those trying to uncover health-harming industries like tobacco and alcohol, says episode host Ogweno Stephen.

Published on: 28 May 2024

Bold Leadership for NCD Equity

Prevention is better than cure, and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to noncommunicable diseases. In this podcast, Dr Monika Arora, President of NCD Alliance and Executive Director of HRIDAY shares the facts about NCD prevention and how governments can show true leadership in protecting the health of their populations by implementing tried-and-true policies and programmes. She also shines a spotlight on health harming industries, like junk food, tobacco and fossil fuels, and their interference in health policy making in countries around the world. As we approach the 4th UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs and Mental Health in 2025, Monika shares one key message with decision makers everywhere: It’s time to take the lead on NCDs.

This podcast comes with a bonus: our host is Snehal Nandagawli, Chapter Lead at Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation & Global Diabetes Advocate, who adds her poignant perspectives to the conversation!

Published on: 23 April 2024

Mental Health in 2024 and Beyond

We often hear that mental health is neglected in part because of the stubborn stigma associated with living with a mental health condition in many — if not most — parts of the world. In an attempt to spotlight this neglected topic, in this episode we speak with two advocates for mental health, one based in Africa the other in South-east Asia. Charity Muturi and Yves Zuniga discuss if mental health indicators worldwide are improving. They also describe their advocacy plans for 2024 and beyond to ensure more focus, and resources, are invested in mental health globally.

Published on: 26 March 2024

Integrating NCDs in humanitarian settings

The number of people displaced by natural disasters, conflict and other factors continues to grow. In 2023, 299 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection, (10% more than at the end of 2022, according to the Global Humanitarian Overview 2024). Many of them are living with noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs, but until recently their specific needs were virtually ignored in planning for disaster relief and recovery. That is slowly changing.

From 27 to 29 February, UN Member States will meet at the Global high-level technical meeting on noncommunicable diseases in humanitarian settings. Organised by the World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency. The closed meeting in Copenhagen will assemble NCD, emergency, refugee, and health systems experts, along with UN agencies, academic bodies and non-state actors, all dedicated to strengthening the integration of NCDs in humanitarian responses.

Ahead of the meeting, NCD Alliance published the briefing paper, Neglected and in crisis: NCDs as a priority in humanitarian settings, which contains many recommendations on improving how NCDs can be better included in humanitarian responses. Today, we’re speaking with two people who will be closely watching the results of that meeting. Dr Catherine Karekezi is the executive director of the NCD Alliance Kenya, and Megan Sheridan is the Programme Manager of the Global Oncology Network of the US-based organisation Direct Relief.

Published on: 23 February 2024

Small island developing states intensify efforts to fight NCDs

Small island developing states (SIDS) are being battered by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). In response, a series of events were organised in recent years to examine SIDS’ current situation and needs. The latest of these was the SIDS Ministerial Conference, held in Barbados in June. Strategic guidance for the Conference was provided by a policy expert group co-chaired by Sir George Alleyne and Sir Collin Tukuitonga. In our new episode we speak to the co-chairs about the Ministerial Conference and the events that pre-dated it as well as about the Bridgetown Declaration generated by the Ministerial Conference, and what it will take to achieve its calls to action. While recognising that making progress on NCDs prevention and care will require constant, long-term effort, both men are optimistic and already see signs of progress.

Published on: 24 August 2023

Hospital innovates funding and care

Since we recorded this episode in June, Bayalpata Hospital management has learned that its funding for the current fiscal year, which started in July, is in doubt. Management signed a five-year agreement with the provincial government in 2022 but now officials say that there is no legal mechanism to transfer money to the hospital. A committee has been set up to look into this and a report is expected in early August. Meanwhile, the hospital is delaying signing staff contracts.

Bayalpata Hospital has been working to provide universal health coverage — care that is accessible and affordable to everyone — since it started running as a non-profit project in Nepal’s Far West region 15 years ago. COVID-19 disrupted the initiative, for example by cutting patient numbers by more than half, to below 50,000 per year. A couple of years earlier Nepal’s transition to a federal governance system meant that the hospital was suddenly working most closely with a provincial government not the Ministry of Health in Kathmandu. Despite these disruptions, Bayalpata is developing as an alternative healthcare model, one that provides free healthcare to people in the most disadvantaged part of the country while developing innovative service delivery tools, funding sources and collaborations.

Published on: 12 August 2023

The Moment for Caring: Global Week for Action on NCDs 2023

The Global Week for Action on NCDs is a major event on the annual calendar of the NCD community worldwide. In 2023 it takes place from 14 to 21 September. This year’s theme is Bridging the care gap, and in this episode of Voices of the Health Revolution, Grace Dubois from NCD Alliance explains why this year’s event is all about care. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is key to the approach: the UN High-level Meeting on UHC takes place on 21 September, and for the NCD community it as an opportunity to build on progress to date and to advance UHC policy and implementation ahead of the target date of 2030.

That means the Global Week is ideally situated to call on governments to accelerate action on NCD prevention and care policies globally across the three UHC dimensions: financial, service, and population coverage. Fair and effective solutions will support every person, every family and every community affected by NCDs as well as their costs for care and treatment.

Published on: 17 July 2023

Spotlighting commercial drivers of health

In recent decades growing attention has been paid to how the social and environmental conditions in which we live — such as air quality (environmental) and income (social) — affect our health. These are known as social and environmental determinants of health. Now a spotlight has been turned on commercial determinants of health, thanks to a new series in The Lancet. Today we’re chatting with three contributors to that series to learn more about commercial determinants: how the products made by commercial actors, and the processes they use in making them, affect people’s health, and how we might start to reduce those impacts.

Thanks as always to our guests:

  • Sharon Friel - ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of Health Equity, Australian National University
  • Anna Gilmore - Professor of Public Health, Department for Health, University of Bath
  • Jenn Lacy-Nichols - Research Fellow, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, University of Melbourne

Published on: 5 June 2023

New fund to spark country action

NCDs account for 74% of all global deaths, 41 million people each year, yet they attract a miniscule fraction of global health financing. So situating them within other regional and global health movements, such as advocacy for Universal Health Coverage, is key to raising their profile and boosting support for NCD care and prevention, explains Dr. Douglas Webb in this episode. We also discuss how the new UN Health4Life Fund is designed to support national government initiatives in order to maximise their investments in NCDs and at the same time overcome the forces, such as Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol, trying to suppress such activity.

Published on: 30 Mars 2023

Health policy victory is sweet in Barbados

Sugary drinks are a major driver of the global epidemic of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. One way to keep consumption under control is through fiscal policies like taxes on these health harming beverages. Francine Charles from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados was at the frontline of the effort to move the Barbados sugary drinks tax increase forward. In this interview, she explains how they did it and how they are now working to see the implementation of diverse healthy food policies to reduce chronic disease and build a healthier population.

Published on: 2 September 2022

The worlds best ever investment opportunity?

Lack of resources and investment in NCD prevention and care is costing the world millions of lives and dollars each year. Yet, there are powerful and cost-effective actions that countries can take to turn the tide on NCDs. In this interview, NCD Alliance CEO Katie Dain shares her views and expertise on how we can close global health’s biggest funding gap. She reveals why investment in NCD prevention and control is the world’s biggest opportunity to save lives and money by 2030.

Published on: 2 September 2022

A landmark plan for chronic diseases in South Africa

South Africa recently launched The National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, 2022-2027. Dr. Vicki Pinkney-Atkinson is Director of the South African NCD Alliance, which worked with the government over eight years to complete the document. In this interview she describes how difficult it was for people living with NCDs to have their voices heard when the new plan was being prepared and the challenges facing its implementation, including lack of resources. She also stresses that NCD activists were determined to followed the path made by the HIV/AIDs movement.

Published on: 4 September 2022

My NCD story, Our NCD story

People-centred healthcare occurs when people, not their conditions, are placed at the heart of health services, programmes and policies. In this episode, Johanna Ralston, CEO of World Obesity Federation, and former CEO of the World Heart Federation, speaks to her experiences of living with noncommunicable diseases for over 30 years. From being silent about her experience at the very beginning, to learning to speak and leverage the platforms around her, Johanna's journey has brought her to advocate for the meaningful involvement of the lived experience in decision-making. Johanna – a leader in the global NCD movement – talks about the improvements in resourcing and prioritisation of NCDs in the policy landscape, but she also knows we’ve still a long way to go.

Published on: 5 September 2022

Closing Global Health's Biggest Gap

Chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease cause 41 million deaths per year, or 74% of all deaths globally. Out-of-pocket health costs are often catastrophic, driving millions of people into poverty every year. Yet they are the most underfunded global health issue. In this podcast, we hear from diverse NCD champions on the urgent need to close this funding gap - and solutions that can make it happen, like fiscal policies for health, innovative partnerships and integrated care. In the lead up to the Second Global NCD Financing Dialogue that will take place in 2023, the time is now to put our minds together and take a new approach to global health financing.

This podcast highlights five voices from NCDA's event: NCD financing as the foundation for healthy societies and economies.

  • Rachel Nugent, RTI International
  • Paul Fife, Director of the Department of Human Development, Norad
  • Dr Omary Ubuguyu, Director for Curative Services, Ministry of Health, United Republic of Tanzania
  • Dr Kelly Henning, Public Health Programme Lead, Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Dr Vuyiseka Dubula Majola, Director of the Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management, South Africa


Published on: 9 September 2022

Motivating a population to move

Efforts to make people worldwide more physically active have stumbled. Five years ago the world’s countries adopted the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA). But putting it in place “has been slow and uneven, resulting in little progress towards increasing population levels of physical activity… and a reversal of progress in several key areas,” says a new WHO progress report . One of the main issues is that governments’ efforts often are not well coordinated, says Fiona Bull, Acting Director and Programme Manager in the Department of Prevention of NCDs, in this episode of Voices of the health revolution. Ways to get the GAPPA back on its feet include investing in “health-enabling environments” so that individuals aren’t left on their own to become more physically active, and supporting governments to take broad-based actions that encompass other ministries beyond those responsible for health and physical activity.

Published on: 19 October 2022

Unlocking the power of lived experience

Despite big advances on NCDs over the last decade, people living with NCDs worldwide have struggled to find platforms where their voices are heard, and where their experiences with health systems and policies contribute to shaping them. Our Views, Our Voices, an initiative launched by the NCD Alliance and people living with NCDs, was started five years ago with the aim of changing this. In this special anniversary podcast, you'll hear from Cajsa Lindberg and Bruno Helman, two lived experience advocates and members of the Our Views, Our Voices Advisory Committee. They reflect on all the initiative has been helping to drive change - even at global levels - and what they hope to achieve in the next five years to come.

Published on: 1 December 2022