By Jeffrey Sturchio
Its no secret that noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma cause an increasing burden of death and disability in rich and poor countries alike. But few people are aware that 35 million people die from chronic diseases globally each year, and that number is expected to grow considerably over time.
Furthermore, 80 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, many of which continue to struggle with the already staggering impact of HIV and AIDS, maternal mortality, preventable child deaths and infectious diseases such as Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis. Because they usually develop during a persons prime working years, NCDs also pose a significant challenge to economic development.
While countries need to lead the effort to prevent, treat and manage NCDs, the magnitude of this epidemic requires a coordinated response from a multitude of actors, including multilateral organizations, civil society and the private sector.
Consider what would happen, for instance, if we could leverage the knowledge of multinational companies and leading nongovernmental organizations to help tackle the challenges of chronic illness. We could, for example, make it easier for families to find healthier food options in the drive-thru lane or at the grocery store, dramatically reduce exposure to secondhand smoke at work, and enable more health workers to provide quality services to people in rural areas.
In fact, these are examples of initiatives already underway through commitments made by members of the Clinton Global Initiative, which harnesses the resources and know-how of industry and implementing organizations to address some of the knottiest problems in global health and development.
2. Making workplaces smoke-free. Employers have both an influence on the health of their employees and a mutual interest in ensuring that they remain healthy. If every major global and national company banned smoking in their workspaces and provided tools to help cigarette smokers quit, we would see drastic reductions in lung cancer rates, particularly in emerging economies such as China, India and Russia. The American Cancer Society, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson and others, has been leading the charge on this front. Along these same lines, the Vitality Institute and its partners are catalyzing enhanced workplace-based prevention efforts and behavior change.
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Photo by: Chelsea Marie Hicks / CC BY