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Integrating NCDs into the Women’s Health Agenda

Since 2010, MSH has been an active advocate for the acknowledgement and inclusion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the overarching women’s health agenda. We were happy to partner with Nova Nortis and the NCD Alliance for the 2016 Women Deliver conference to address how the maternal health agenda can and should include NCDs. The three sessions emphasized the value in adopting a common agenda for NCDs and RMNCAH and identified key advocacy strategies and youth engagement techniques to make effectively addressing NCDs a key priority in the movement for women and girls’ equality. Speakers included Florence Guillaume, Former Minister of Public Health & Population, Haiti, Maisha Hutton, Executive Director, Healthy Caribbean Coalition, and Bente Mikkelsen, Head of the Secretariat, Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, WHO.

The first session, Tackling NCDs: The Key to Improving the Health of Women and Girls, explained the public health burden NCDs present for women and girls. Limited access to care, heightened exposure to risk factors, and the sex-specific nature of some NCDs force women and girls to bear the greatest burden of non-communicable diseases. Recognizing that NCDs are the leading cause of death for women globally and kill 18 million women annually, the panel of experts assembled at this session called for the inclusion of NCDs in a comprehensive, life course approach to women and girls’ health.

In light of this call for a more comprehensive approach, the second session centered on joint advocacy strategies to unite the NCD and RMNCAH agendas. Case studies of advocacy initiatives in Brazil, the Caribbean, Uganda, and Rwanda prove that streamlined messaging and joint advocacy can result in the adoption of evidence-based interventions that effectively address NCDs and RMNCAH together. Table discussions led by youth delegates emphasized that an integration of these agendas will ultimately strengthen health systems and promote universal health coverage (UHC).

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

One of the talented graphic facilitators at Women Deliver captured the second NCD session takeaways. Photo credit: Crystal Lander/MSH.

The final session, Engaging Youth for a Healthier Future: The NCD Perspective, called for greater youth advocacy in the NCD space. Several case studies of youth activism were referenced by panelists as a testament to the critical success youth can have in galvanizing support and action with respect to NCDs.

third panel

The third session panelists engage the audience through yes or no questions using paddles. Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH.

Post study tour, Management Sciences for Health continues to advocate for the inclusion of NCDs in the broader women and girls’ agenda through its steering role in the NCD Round Table. It is our hope that by Women Deliver 2019, the NCD and RMNCAH agendas will be integrated and more evidence-based interventions will be devoted to improving women and girls’ health across the life course.

This post was written by Meredith Greene, Summer Policy, Advocacy & Communications Intern with Management Sciences for Health.