What a week it was, September 16 – 22, 2011. Action packed. Heady. Full of monumental meetings and key personalities. Zig-zagging across Manhattan. Jolts of inspiration and renewed resolve to continue on our journey. Reinforcement that we at Arogya World are doing good work, well. A genuine leg up for our young organization. A giant step forward for NCDs.
Central to the entire week of course was the adoption of the Political Declaration on NCDs by 193 Member States on September 19, 2011, acknowledging that “the global burden and threat of non-communicable diseases constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century.” This historic agreement reached unanimously by all member states, establishes, by its very existence, that policy changes and government intervention are a must in the fight against NCDs. That individuals can take important steps and change their lifestyles, but governments must act if the world has a chance against the onslaught of NCDs. Representatives from Arogya World were privileged to attend both the opening plenary and Roundtable 1, and to watch first-hand the UN process and high-level global diplomacy at work.
Five representatives from Arogya World attended many of the more than 50 side events throughout New York City that exuberantly marked this historic event – Pamela Yih, Naina Saligram, Thea Joselow, Elizabeth Nussbaumer and Nalini Saligram. Three events stood out for us – the talk by Tom Farley on New York City’s approach and phenomenal success in combating NCDs in a session arranged by the NCD Alliance at the New York Academy of Medicine, the session on sports and physical activity organized by the American College of Sports Medicine and others, and the extraordinary and painstaking calculation of the costs of action and inaction against NCDs as revealed by the WHO and the WEF/Bloom studies. Please watch our website for blog posts and commentary in the coming weeks on the outcomes from the UN week.
On the 19th of Sep, we issued a press release, Women for a Healthy Future: New Global Movement Demands Action Against NCDs, carrying the voices of thousands from 95 countries around the world to demand action against NCDs – and delivered it to UN, government and business leaders. We will continue the dialogue with these leaders and persuade them to take concrete steps to ensure a healthy future for women and children. Our petition is still open – please sign in large numbers, and encourage others to sign. The sooner we can reach 10,000 signatures from around the world, the more seriously we will be taken.
And then, we moved on to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting, held September 20-22, 2011. We are honored to be a 2011 CGI Commitment Maker, and on the 20th, Arogya World announced a major collaboration with Nokia on diabetes prevention with mobile health in India. Specifically, we committed to raising awareness of diabetes and its prevention among Indian consumers by reaching 1 million Nokia mobile phone users with diabetes text messages in 12 languages over the next two years. Partnering with us on this exciting effort are Emory, Synovate, Biocon, LifeScan and Aetna. We believe this is the largest nationwide mobile health chronic disease prevention program in a developing country to date, and will generate much data of interest to the public health world. We are truly excited about this initiative.
CGI was tremendous in every way. It was indeed inspiring to see so many serious, committed and extraordinary change makers finding ways big and small to improve our world. NCDs were featured in the exalted panel discussions and hallway conversations, and the NCD Roundtable session offered an opportunity to reflect on the week and the way forward. What was particularly unforgettable was the Conversation on Courage: Humanitarian Leadership in Action session between Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi facilitated by Charlie Rose. As well as the discussion at the session on child marriage – Girls, Not Brides. And of course everyone found the rousing performance by Sting at the end to be genuinely energizing.
All in all, it was a hugely productive week for us at Arogya World in what will be marked forever as a historic week for NCDs.