Study Tour: NCDs Crossing the Development Divide

By: Christine Sow, Global Health CouncilCross-posted from the Global Health Council Blog

GHC Executive Director Christine Sow accompanied US Senate staffers to Uganda and Rwanda on a study tour organized by the Livestrong Foundation and Management Sciences for Health. We will be featuring blogs and pictures from Christine on the tour – read on to hear about the trip, NCDs, and global health challenges.

The Uganda Cancer Institute. Photo credit: Sally Canfield.

The Uganda Cancer Institute. Photo credit: Sally Canfield.

One particularly striking thing I have noticed on this trip is that the challenges health officials face in tackling NCDs in low and middle income countries are not so different to the challenges the U.S. and other Western countries face in addressing these same diseases.  This is an area where our similarities are more significant than our differences; quite unlike most global health challenges today. “Tropical” diseases that ravage low and middle income countries were typically considered the unique purview of the “developing world.”  Not so, in the case of NCDs today.  In fact, top research and treatment institutions such as the Uganda Cancer Institute and the Joint Clinical Research Center are doing ground-breaking biomedical work on challenges such as Epstein-Barr Virus and antiretroviral therapy roll-out, and are returning findings and recommendations that have applications far beyond Uganda’s borders.

An interesting aspect of this research is their attention to the development of effective treatment regimens for low resource settings – the reality of their national context means that they will not have high-tech solutions on hand to treat their patients. This work is promising both for what the identification of low resource solutions means for patients in Uganda and elsewhere in the global South. But it is also promising because it can challenge high income countries – that have cost limitations and resource contraints of their own – to consider alternate approaches to how they address diseases that have traditionally “merited” high cost solutions. But while trying to continue their work, they also spend much of their time and energy on piecing together the funding to keep it going. This is not a new story, but one that deserves to be repeated – the efficiency and impact of cutting-edge programs, whether they be focused on research or implementation, need and deserve long-term funding commitments in order to be truly functional and achieve optimal impact. And this is true whether the funding is coming from external donors or from an institution’s own national government.

Christine Sow is the Executive Director of the Global Health Council.

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