UN summit on non-communicable diseases

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Published: 22 Jun 2011
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Dr Eduardo Cazap - SLACOM, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dr Eduardo Cazap talks about the significance of the UN summit on non-communicable diseases to be held 19th-20th September 2011. Cancer has not traditionally been seen as a global health care priority and this summit presents a unique opportunity for the international community to take action against the epidemic and save millions of lives. As president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) Dr Cazap has played a key role in the organisation of this meeting. He explains that the key objectives of the summit must be prevention, education and supportive care, and stresses the importance of international leaders attending this meeting in person.

ASCO 2011 Annual Meeting, 3—7 June 2011, Chicago

UN summit on non-communicable diseases

Dr Eduardo Cazap – SLACOM, Buenos Aires, Argentina


I would like first to share with you, which is the difference between a WHO action, that is the classical action in health, and a United Nations action.

That would be good.

WHO, that is the usual international and global governmental body for health, has a position of an advisory role. The WHO can prepare a document, can suggest things but WHO is unable to really put pressure on governments in order to implement real and complete actions. So this situation is different. Why it is different? It is different because, first, cancer is not today in the global agenda. Cancer is not included in the millennium development goals, and cancer is not considered as a priority in many world governments. So, a summit means, and this type of special session, the second in the whole history of the United Nations, the first one was in 2001 for the AIDS. The other 26 were for wars or very important military conflicts, this is for health. And this is for health, and the relevance of this meeting is the final outcome document. That has not yet been decided completely, but we hope that it will be a very strong document. If so, the document indications must be followed by the governments; the governments must report periodically to the United Nations, and if they are not doing the proper actions, that could be something that will be punished or some type of criticisms to the government from the international community. So this is one issue.

This UN summit will have the possibility of actually making a turning point from the current situation, not only for cancer but for other chronic diseases, that at certain point, and this is the point that you should share with our colleagues and with the general public also, why NCDs? I don’t have an NCD, I have diabetes or I have cancer, or my mother…

Called non-communicable disease.

Please, it is important to understand the difference between a medical mind, a scientific mind and a political action and this is basically a political action. I had some discussion, for example, with the people from mental health to why mental health is not included? Because the political decision was the four diseases. So my reply is, mental health, chronic renal diseases, there are other diseases that are of course important but this will be a process in order to open the door. Of course, many of our asks are not ideal. The people that are asking for better access to treatments are unhappy because perhaps access to treatment will not be a very, very key point.

But prevention will.

Prevention, supporting care, education; primary and secondary prevention. So I think that we need to be a little more practical, realistic, but this will be not the final issue, this will be the beginning of the process. So we hope that we will have a good outcome on September 19th, that is the date of the summit in New York, but we will need to work after September in order to improve the situation and, with this platform, develop a more efficient and more comprehensive action later on.

We have 35,000 oncologists looking at this, this month, this ecancer.tv; what can they do, Eduardo? They write to you, they write to the government, how are we going to do this?

I understand. This is critical, mainly for, not only the international colleagues, 50% of the attendees of this meeting are international, also for the domestic. We ask all our colleagues to have a daily contact with the Minister of Health, with the key leaders in the country and try to transmit this message: we need the participation, in person, of the leader of the country or if the leader of the country is unavailable to participate, a top representative with possibilities of decisions. If not, that will be a problem. So we need 190-something colleagues, in 190-something countries, to take the lead, to convince our leaders that we need to have as many leader as possible in New York in September.

Eduardo, I think you are the man for the job, and I think you are making great progress. We know you of old, and you’ve been a terrific leader in South America, but also in ESMO and also in ASCO. Anything that we can do in ecancer.tv, we will do it.

Yes, I know that you have an extraordinary tool for communication, for dissemination and I think that is one of the reasons because I am so happy with this type of action. Education is a basic component of cancer control, not only medical education, public education and, in this opportunity, politicians’ education, and leaders. We need to have as many people aware about the situation as possible, so your work, all this network of information and electronic means of communications, are critical in this endeavour.

Yes. Good luck and I sincerely hope this comes off, it’s just too important not to work.

Thank you very much for your support and collaboration.