NCD Child’s Approach to Advocacy: Putting Children First

This guest post was written by, Jonathan D Klein, MD, MPH, FAAP, Executive Director, NCD Childa a global multi-stakeholder coalition championing the rights and needs of children, adolescents, and young people living with or at risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCD Child is a member of the Global Health Council.

NCD Child is a global multi-stakeholder coalition championing the rights and needs of children, adolescents, and young people living with or at risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  Their message to civil society, governments, and WHO is unwavering – children are not small adults.  They require unique services, yet many national and global health policies fail to adequately account for these distinctive needs.  NCD Child actively engages and collaborates with governments, multilateral organizations (ie, WHO, UNICEF, other UN agencies), civil society, the private sector, and academic institutions to promote awareness, education, prevention, and treatment of NCDs in children, adolescents, and young people.  They support child health advocacy and policy at the global level via WHO and the UN as well as at the country-level through civil society and individual champions.  They are committed to involving youth voices across all their work, from engagement in the NCD and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agendas to their own governance and program activities.

Young people’s access to essential medicines and technologies for special health care needs are a particularly alarming and growing concern.  To tackle this challenge, NCD Child launched a Taskforce on Essential Medicines and Technologies during the 2017 World Health Assembly.  Whether it is insulin, an asthma inhaler, chemotherapy, heart surgery, or simple antibiotics, poor access or lack of availability to safe and appropriate medicines and technologies for children, adolescents, and young people hinders their chances of living healthy, productive and long lives.  There are several challenges to consistent, safe access to essential medicines and technologies – drug shortages, appropriate dosages for children, challenges in drug delivery, technology incompatible with systems, and products excluded from the WHO Essential Medicines for children lists.  The new taskforce, chaired by Dr. Kate Armstrong, Executive Director of CLAN (Caring & Living as Neighbors) and founding Executive Director of NCD Child, includes a diverse group of experts from government, academia, and civil society.  Kate’s vision that all children living with chronic health conditions should be afforded the same opportunities and quality of life as other children, helped NCD Child frame their mission and goals towards a rights-based approach to universal access and population health.  For the taskforce, this means addressing consistent, equitable, and affordable access to essential medicines and equipment for all children, adolescents, and young people living with NCDs – including attention to the rights and needs of all young people with special health care needs.  The initial report, scheduled for 2018, will discuss common barriers to access and propose collaborative, practical strategies to address the gaps.

Practically, this means NCD Child wants policies ensuring that the health needs of young people are always included in health systems planning and accountability.  They recognize to affect policy, governments and other advocates need to fully appreciate why it is important to include children, adolescents, and young people.  How do current policies and frameworks exclude them?  What is the potential impact of not tailoring policies, health education, and health systems?  How many lives can be saved, improved, and extended if policies addressed the needs of all ages across the entire life-course?  The taskforce will serve to amplify NCD Child’s concerns by developing resources to educate governments, help guide policy development, and contribute to the WHO Essential Medicines list.

Prevention and treatment of NCDs helps children, adolescents, and young people live life to their fullest potential. These investments are also critical to successfully addressing preventable maternal and child deaths, and to effective, sustainable development.  At the July High Level Political Forum on SDGs, Dr Nata Menabde, Executive Director of WHO at the United Nations, closed the review of the health goal by noting that “every minister should be a health minister.”  When it comes to health in all policies, “put children first” is essential to all plans, whether for health systems, NCDs, or other global goals.

For more information and to sign up for the NCD Child listserv, visit www.ncdchild.org.