Mexican women carry soft drinks to a birthday party Dana Romanoff/Getty Images

The ABCs of NCD Care

Achieving global health security certainly requires managing headline-grabbing infectious diseases such as Ebola, the Zika virus, and others that have not even appeared yet. But it also requires a deeper commitment to systems of long-term preventive care and management of chronic noncommunicable diseases like diabetes.

GENEVA – The World Health Organization recently began sounding the alarm about a deadly new pathogen called Disease X. In fact, Disease X does not actually exist, at least not yet. Rather, it is part of a clever public-awareness campaign by the WHO to prepare people and governments for the threat posed by new infectious diseases.

The emergence of dangerous new infectious diseases is not a matter of if, but when. As the WHO announcement makes clear, we urgently need to develop stronger, more responsive public health systems to confront future epidemics.

But while outbreaks of infectious illnesses such as Ebola, flu, Zika, SARS, and – hypothetically – Disease X tend to capture headlines, most global health practitioners understand that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer pose an even greater threat to health and economic stability. According to the World Obesity Federation, obesity-related NCDs could cost the world as much as $1.2 trillion per year by 2025. That will have a profoundly destabilizing effect on low- and middle-income countries, and it could derail efforts to achieve global health security.

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