tb treatment David Greedy/Getty Images

Governments Must Stand Up for Health

Through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other global agreements, governments around the world have committed to tackling the epidemics of tuberculosis and noncommunicable diseases by 2030. But unless governments increase their investments in national health systems, those goals will not be met.

GENEVA – It was just a century ago that the Spanish flu epidemic spread across the world and killed tens of millions of people. Long before the moon landing, the Internet, or the discovery of the Higgs boson, the world was at the mercy of a disease that struck indiscriminately and did not respect national boundaries. The epidemic required an absolutely extraordinary response.

A hundred years on, contagious diseases continue to cross borders faster and more efficiently than people or goods. But other epidemics, of chronic and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), are also a scourge to communities around the world. In fact, in terms of the scale of human suffering and the costs for society, these diseases can be even more devastating than their contagious counterparts.

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, global heads of state are meeting on September 26-27 to highlight two major health threats. On the first day, they will discuss strategies to end tuberculosis (TB), an ancient bacterium that remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease. TB claims more than 4,000 lives per day, and is among the top ten causes of death globally. To make a bad situation worse, it is also a major cause of deaths linked to antimicrobial resistance, as well as the leading killer of people with HIV.

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