Health as a fundamental human right of every human being must be central driver towards sustainable development goals
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Imagine a world where no one was suffering from any of the preventable diseases, be it non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or infectious diseases, or had to die untimely due to diseases that were primarily avoidable! Also imagine a tobacco free world - imagine a world where healthy balanced nutrition for all was a reality - where health for all was not just a chant but a reality for everyone where no one was truly left behind.
We the people had to pay the price of chronic neglect of public health - where people suffered not just because of the corona virus but also because of non-availability of timely care for range of NCDs or failure to access basic services like oxygen. The price has been very heavy for not fully implementing lifesaving evidence-based policies of tobacco control, for not fully implementing other evidence-based measures for disease prevention as well as for diagnosis, treatment, care and support. The Covid pandemic is indeed a public health emergency but other cascading humanitarian crises were so very preventable.
Imagine only if all governments had been on track on all promises made in 2015 UN General Assembly towards sustainable development goals. How much better prepared we would be to deal with the current public health emergency if governments had been on track on NCD promises - ensuring rights-based access for each one of us worldwide to full package of standard prevention, diagnosis, treatment care and support.
NCDs account for over 70% of untimely deaths worldwide. Dr Monika Arora, President-elect of NCD Alliance, and noted #endtobacco advocate and public health expert, was the opening speaker at the multistakeholder dialogue for southeast Asian and Western Pacific region hosted by NCD Alliance on "Inspiring change, putting people first: Shaping responsive health systems for people living with NCDs in the Covid era". The ability to address and respond to NCDs has been severely impacted during the pandemic as per the surveys done by NCD Alliance as well as World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies. Those living with NCDs are at increased risk of becoming severely ill with the corona virus. Putting people first is a compelling priority as well as need for delivering on people centrerd health responses has never been more acute.
Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali, Deputy Health Minister of Malaysia; Dr Palitha Abeykoon, Senior Advisor, Health Ministry of Sri Lanka; Dr Saunthari Somasundaram, Chairperson of NCD Malaysia and President of National Cancer Society of Malaysia; Fale Andrew Lesa of ADB from New Zealand; Dr Le Thi Thu Hien, Programme Director of PATH Vietnam; Jyotsana Govil of Healthy India Alliance; Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo, President of Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations; Margianta Surahman of UNICEF; Prof Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of the George Institute for Global Health in India; were among some of the key speakers of this multistakeholder dialogue.
profiteering from illness has to end
We also need to ensure progress on health security does not get undermined by corporations whose profits depend upon products that make our people sick. Profiteering from illness has to end. Corporations that have knowingly deceived our populations in consuming products that make us sick and kill must be held legally and financially liable.
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