NCD Café | 2016 WCC

United for a common cause: joining forces bolsters progress on cancer and NCDs

7 December 2017
© NCDA | Katie Dain

Katie Dain, Chief Executive Officer
NCD Alliance

On the occasion of the Second Global NCD Alliance Forum 2017 taking place in Sharjah, UAE, on 9-11 December, Katie Dain, CEO of NCD Alliance, shares her views on the rationale of strengthened collaboration across diseases which has been at the very core of the organisation’s work since its inception. 

In 2009, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the World Heart Federation and the International Diabetes Federation came together in recognition of the need to amplify the voice of the non-communicable disease (NCD) community at global level, and in an effort to better coordinate and lead a powerful global movement that bridged diseases and risk factors. These organisations were soon joined by the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

UICC’s leadership and progressive vision and action to partner with organisations beyond the core cancer community has proven to be invaluable and transformational. Thanks to these firm foundations, the global movement for NCDs has gone from strength to strength. Each of the founding members of the NCD Alliance provides unique and valuable support to the cause.

Shared best practice across health communities

In the case of collaboration with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the following areas stand out:

  • The cancer community is a long-established leader in advocacy for tobacco control, including taxation, plain packaging and marketing regulation. Lessons learned in how to push for effective policies and in combatting industry interference are invaluable in addressing other diseases caused by tobacco use, but can also be applied to reduce consumption of alcohol and unhealthy diets. The work of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer (a joint UICC / Cancer Council Victoria initiative) to build legal capacity is especially noteworthy, and has expanded from an initial focus on tobacco control to now encompassing means to address obesity.
  • There are multiple examples of good practice for treatment and care within the cancer response, which are being scaled to the wider NCD community. This includes integrated screening for cervical cancer and HIV, which has yielded lessons for the increasingly relevant topic of tuberculosis-diabetes co-morbidities, and indeed more widely for NCDs and communicable diseases. UICC’s work on access to treatment and the essential medicines list for cancer has been adapted for broader work on access to treatment and essential medicines for NCDs. Finally, there is recognition that access to palliative care, which is a well-established priority among the cancer community, must also be promoted for people living with dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – palliative care consists not only of pain relief but also physical, emotional, and spiritual support.
  • UICC and the wider cancer community have been trail blazers in engaging and empowering people living with cancer to amplify their priorities, and for catalysing patient activism. This has in part served to inspire the NCD Alliance’s initiative ‘Our Views, Our Voices’, which seeks to meaningfully involve people living with NCDs in the NCD response, supporting and enabling individuals to share their views to take action and drive change.
  • Finally, NCDA has received valuable guidance from UICC on how to effectively establish itself as a formal membership organisation, a transition which we will complete in 2017. NCDA’s new structure will facilitate further expansion and diversification of membership and providing more opportunities for engaging with members, and building on our mantra that “together we are stronger.” With global political commitments for NCDs now firmly established, there is a clear and urgent need for actions to be implemented at national and regional levels. NCDA is therefore actively building relationships with organisations at the local level, to strengthen advocacy, accountability and implementation thanks to advice and a clear example set by UICC.

A unified voice for common goals

These are but a few examples of the value of collaboration which we replicate in various forms with other NCDA federations, with the shared objective of driving progress toward common goals. NCD Alliance and UICC, and our respective member organisations, regularly make joint statements at United Nations and World Health Organization meetings, input into consultation responses, facilitate knowledge exchange through multilateral side events, amplify and strengthen each other’s advocacy messages and campaigns including World Cancer Day and the Cancer Resolution recently adopted by the World Health Assembly, develop joint knowledge resources between UICC member organisations such as World Cancer Research International, and hosted news, blogs and social media messages. UICC’s approach to mainstream NCDs in the past two World Cancer Congresses has been beneficial in leading collaboration between the cancer and wider NCD community, including through initiatives such as the NCD Café, dedicated NCD streams, and unifying messaging.

The wealth of expertise across diseases and risk factors has already been of great benefit to the NCD response as a whole. The NCD Alliance was created with the purpose of convening representatives from across sectors so that good practice and expertise can be shared and utilised. The exchange of knowledge and expertise between UICC and NCD Alliance has already proven to be instrumental in the broader NCD response, and is an example of what can be accomplished when organisations that are focused on a specific issue are engaged in the global NCD agenda.

On 9-11 December we will be holding the 2nd Global NCD Alliance Forum in Sharjah, UAE, together with local hosts and UICC members, Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP). We're calling delegates to share their commitment to fight NCDs by signing up to the Thunderclap campaign. If you're not attending the Forum, join the online conversation by following #NCDAF2017.


About the author

Katie Dain (@katiedain1) has worked with the NCD Alliance since its founding in 2009. Her experience has included organisational and strategic development, global advocacy and policy-making, and programme design and capacity building in low- and middle-income countries.

Last update: 
Thursday 7 December 2017