Introducing Working Group Co-Chairs: Non-Communicable Diseases

June 05, 2024

This is the third installment in our newest blog series highlighting Global Health Council’s Working Group co-chairs. The eight Working Groups unite members around common goals and interests in order to discuss strategy, share information, and align messaging in order to positively influence global health policy.

Through this series, we are introducing you to each of the co-chairs and providing an overview of their work plans and priorities for the coming months. In this post, we are featuring our conversation with the co-chairs of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Working Group: Kate Doherty (Global ARCH), Katy Winckworth-Prejsnar (National Comprehensive Cancer Network), and Eliana Monteforte (Global Health Council).

What do your organizations do?

Kate: The Global Alliance for Rheumatic and Congenital Hearts (Global ARCH) brings together organizations from around the world to learn, collaborate, and speak out together for those living with congenital heart disease and/or rheumatic heart disease. We seek to improve lifelong outcomes in childhood-onset heart disease by empowering patient and family organizations.

Katy: The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is a not-for-profit alliance of 33 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN collaborates with global stakeholders to advance patient-centered cancer care globally.

What is the mission of the GHC Working Group that you chair?

All: The GHC Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Working Group brings together advocates across GHC’s diverse membership to advocate for strong global health policy, commitments, and accountability around NCDs. The Working Group serves as a platform where GHC members can share knowledge and information about NCDs and coordinate advocacy efforts across our organizations.

Why was it important for your organization to be a part of this Working Group?

Katy: NCDs—including cancer, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes—are responsible for 74% of all deaths around the world. The vast majority of these deaths are happening in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). At NCCN, we recognize our responsibility to do whatever we can to increase equitable cancer outcomes. Our work to standardize and elevate cancer care in partnership with experts in lower-resource regions is fundamental to everything we do. We are honored to collaborate with so many dedicated advocates and policymakers through Global Health Council’s NCD Working Group.

Kate: As Katy mentioned, the burden of NCDs globally—especially in LMICs—was also a major reason Global ARCH wanted to join this Working Group. It’s important to ensure we increase access not only to physical care for those living with NCDs, but also to mental health care and resources to support emotional well-being.

What do you hope the Working Group will be able to achieve during your term as co-chair?

All: We hope to raise more awareness about NCDs around the world by collaborating with experts including the medical community, patients, families, NGOs, the research community, and more. We truly believe we are stronger together and can help contribute to improving the lives of those living with NCDs around the world.

What is the value of addressing these issues as a coalition?

All: Moving forward, the NCD Roundtable has the opportunity to create a unified voice to promote the importance of NCDs on the global health and development agenda, including the United Nations high-level meetings on NCDS and advancing the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3.4) target to reduce the global number of NCD deaths by one-third.

What types of activities will the Working Group be undertaking to achieve its goals?

All: Within the NCD community, alliances of organizations have recognized the importance of uniting disease and risk factor groups to coordinate advocacy work and amplify efforts. In 2024, we would like to advocate for stronger global health commitments and accountability for addressing the impact of NCDs across several cross-cutting global health areas, including universal health coverage, issues faced by frontline health workers, child and maternal health, and others.

Is there a real-world example or story from on the ground which illustrates the challenge this Working Group is seeking to address?

All: We seek to improve access to care around the world so that, no matter where a person is born, they can access the treatment they need. Right now, many people are dying before they can receive treatment for their NCDs. For example, in 2017 a baby in Zimbabwe named Rudorwashe Grace lost her life because her family was not able to access the funds to send her abroad for treatment. Her life would have been much different if access to an early diagnosis and timely treatment were available in her community. You can read her story on the Global ARCH website.

What is the most important thing for the broader global health community to know? How can they best support your efforts?

All: It’s essential for the broader community to know what non-communicable diseases are, realize the size of the global burden, and understand how important it is to work together against NCDs. A good place to start is with the recording of our recent Non-Communicable Diseases 101 Webinar.

Thanks so much to Katy, Kate, and Eliana for talking with us about their work with the Non-Communicable Diseases Working Group. To learn more, visit GHC’s Working Groups page.