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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 01/24/2011

Making health accessible and affordable

By Kate Roberts

As a Young Global Leader and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Advisory Board, I’m lucky to have a bit of an inside track on the agenda for Davos this year. As usual, health’s a hot topic. But unlike in years past, the focus will be on an entirely new aspect of this global challenge.

Non-communicable diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory disease -- were once considered to be a problem for high-income countries alone. Yet these diseases now account for more deaths than HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and all other communicable diseases combined. What is even more concerning is that the incidence is rising dramatically in low- and middle-income countries, and by 2030, non-communicable diseases are expected to account for more than 75 percent of all deaths worldwide.

This has staggering economic implications -- countries such as China, India and the Russian Federation are estimated to lose $23 billion to $53 billion annually as a result of only three of these diseases: heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Interventions to combat obesity and curtail tobacco use can help avert this disaster, but resources are already overstretched.

So what’s the message of the forum? Integration. They want to integrate and embed winning health practices into the overall socioeconomic landscape, to foster innovations, making them accessible, affordable and reliable, and to demonstrate the need for more integrated data gathering and sharing. It's not just about money or building expensive hospitals: It's about tapping into the existing infrastructures in developing countries, with a heightened focus on prevention rather than just care, and about embedding health across all industries, sectors and levels of society. It costs much more to care for someone with cancer than it does to prevent the disease.

The ultimate aim of the health agenda at Davos this year will be to influence heads of state to perhaps think more like ministers of health. In the lead-up to the United Nations summit on non-communicable diseases in September, it is ever more important that leaders recognize the need to ensure that their limited health dollars are used most effectively. Prevention of both communicable and non-communicable diseases is key, as this will ultimately lead to both billions of dollars in savings and millions of lives saved.

Kate Roberts leads the Corporate Marketing and Communications Departments of PSI. Kate is the founder and executive director of YouthAIDS and Five & Alive, two marketing programs of PSI. Prior to her role at PSI, Roberts worked with Bates, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising.

By Kate Roberts  | January 24, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Kate Roberts  
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Next: The Davos barometer: Risks ahead

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