Monday, October 24, 2011

NCD Alliance

To the best of my understanding, the NCD Alliance met during the UN General Assembly Meeting that was recently held in NYC.  It was during this meeting, that Tea Collins, the Executive Director of the Alliance, was interviewed by a fellow physician and Professor, Eli Adashi, for Medscape News.

I read this interview and wanted to share a few things with you.  The first is the definition of NCD -
NCD stands for Non Communicable Diseases.  The 4 types of diseases that are in this group of diseases were at one time referred to as chronic diseases.  The reason for the name change has to do with some communicable diseases(namely HIV/AIDS) becoming chronic diseases.  So to differentiate between disease we can pass from one to another and diseases that are in large part related to lifestyle factors, the category name has changed.

Dr. Collins does not particularly like the the NCD phrase because the word NON makes the illnesses sound benign or harmless.  They are not.  The four conditions, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and some lung conditions (i.e. COPD) are  serious and epidemic.  These are the top four killers for the entire WORLD.  Sixty percent of all deaths are attributed to these 4 NCDs.  

Though I agree with Dr. Collins point on lifestyle factors being the main cause - I do have to take issue with his qualifying them as "easily modifiable."  The modifications she advises, and you have heard them before, are tobacco control (i.e. don't use it), alcohol moderation, improved diet (i.e. weight loss or maintenance) and increases in physical activity (exercise).  They may all be "easy" in theory but when it gets down to individuals, a whole host of problems seems to occur.

Speaking of individuals, the interview did note that there are two main strategies or interventions for dealing with the chronic diseases.  They are population level (i.e. public health and policy) and individual level (treatments and programming - i.e. physicians, nutritionists, health educators).  I have been and still am, interested in the population level approaches such as banning smoking in public, outlawing tanning beds, reducing prices for healthy foods, promoting active living by design, etc.

Lastly, another good point that Dr. Collins made regards the mistaken perception that these NCDs are natural parts of aging and that it is the equivalent of "everybody has to die of something."  She specifically said that to consider these diseases of aging is incorrect.  She noted also and correctly that many of our children and young adults are being diagnosed with NCDs.  I would say this is especially concerning considering how few years they have been engaging in that unhealthy lifestyle.  It comes upon us quick and the longer one has diabetes or heart disease, the worse the outcome and the greater the disability (and quite frankly, the cost to society).

You can learn more about the NCD Alliance and view the worldwide list of members and supporters, including the USA by clicking here.

 Oh and not only is Dr. Collins and MD, she is also an MPH, MPA and a DrPH (like she must have been in school his entire adult life!)  - I think that the MPA is a Masters in Public Health Administration but I am not sure.


Anonymous said...

Dr Collins is female.

Deirdre Dingman, MPH, CTTS, CHES, PAPHS said...

Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention. I tried to correct all my pronouns. I did not assume the gender, I was certain that I had also heard an interview on NPR with Dr. Collins - who appeared to be male, but it may have been someone speaking on the same issue.
~ Deirdre