Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2012

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Launched at the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting, the publication provides a guide to current issues in public health for ministers and senior officials. Reflecting the theme of CHMM 2012, Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2012 focuses on the linkages between non-communicable and communicable diseases, with analysis from leading experts on the specific challenges in this emerging field.

The publication also includes extensive health profiles and statistics on the 54 Commonwealth member countries, incorporating the latest research on non-communicable and communicable diseases.


An introduction by the Commonwealth Secretariat

It is well recognised that many countries across the Commonwealth now face a dual burden of simultaneously addressing the challenges of both non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and communicable diseases (CDs). In many developed countries there has been awareness and growing concern over the last two decades of the increased prevalence and incidence of NCDs such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. Meanwhile in many low- and middle-income countries the main focus has been on CDs such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. NCDs were therefore long regarded as diseases of the developed nations and of little concern to low- and middle-income nations.

However, recent data has confirmed that not only does the challenge of NCDs cut across all regions and nations, irrespective of income and socio-economic status, but also low- and middleincome countries may even be disproportionately affected by these diseases: 80 per cent of the 36 million deaths annually from NCDs occur in these countries. This NCD burden adds to the challenges that these countries face in providing adequate health care to their populations as they also bear the brunt of infectious diseases.

The provision of adequate health care is also a challenge even in high-income settings where health systems are faced with changing demands and expectations as well as an increasingly ageing population. In low- and middle-income countries, on the other hand, the dual burden of NCDs and CDs is a tremendous strain on health systems that are often already overstretched because of a variety of socio-economic factors as well as a heavy disease burden.

Commonwealth Health Partnerships 2012 explores ways in which Commonwealth governments can best respond to this dual challenge of NCDs and CDs, making the most of existing health systems. One of the ways in which countries can do this is by learning lessons from the vast experience already acquired addressing CDs and building on this to respond to the growing burden of NCDs. Examples include learning from the HIV/AIDS and polio experiences of the last few decades, especially in terms of chronic disease management, mobilising funding and high level political will, and recognising the critical role played by civil society.

The publication also explores other issues that link NCDs and CDs or that provide examples of platforms that can be built on to address NCDs. These include integrated approaches to health service delivery; relevant training and re-training of the health workforce to respond more effectively to the dual burden and dual diagnoses of NCDs and CDs; the link between cancers and infectious diseases; innovative ways of communicating health messages, especially to young people; case studies of best practices and lessons learned across the Commonwealth regions; and an overview of some of the main social and cultural determinants to be considered as countries respond.

The efforts by many Commonwealth countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international development commitments will be negatively affected by the dual burden of NCDs and CDs. This dual burden is therefore not just a health challenge but also a major obstacle to overall socioeconomic development in the Commonwealth.

The sharing of country and regional experience, expertise and best practices among Commonwealth countries as they leverage the CD experience for their response to the NCD challenge will go a long way in supporting member States in their efforts to provide adequate health care for their citizens.

We would therefore like to express our gratitude to all the authors and organisations who have contributed papers to this year’s Commonwealth Health Partnerships.

Health Section, Social Transformation Programmes Division,
Commonwealth Secretariat