Washington DC, July 26, 2011 – Meridian International Center, along with partners Gallup and Healthways, welcomed international delegates and health experts for a half-day conference, The Prevention and Control of Chronic Disease: A Global Leadership Challenge. Participants shared current initiatives and best practices in the lead up to September’s U.N. High-Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Ms. Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, moderated the conference, incorporating the views and perspectives of a multi-region group of health professionals with the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in attendance.
Dr. James Hospedales, Senior Advisor for Prevention and Control of Chronic Diseases for the Pan American Health Organization, provided opening remarks to frame the broader program. Dr. Hospedales named non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as the world’s number one killer--a “huge human and economic burden that is not sustainable.” Dr. Hospedales called NCDs a health, economic, and national security problem directly related to poverty, both caused by and contributing to social inequalities worldwide. In a conversation to follow Dr. Hospedales’ remarks, IVLP representatives from India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, and Bulgaria shared specific cultural problems in their regions, including the use and acceptance of tobacco, as well as “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes.
Ms. Katie Bell, Partner at Gallup Healthcare Group, and Mr. John Harris, Chief Well-Being Officer and Vice President of Innovations with Healthways, presented jointly on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The pair explained how non-traditional metrics such as the Index can pinpoint evaluative and experiential components that can then be improved upon to increase workplace productivity, life satisfaction, and overall health, while decreasing healthcare costs. With self-identified groups of “Thriving,” “Struggling,” and “Suffering” respondents, the Index shows that Thriving people experience 20% lower healthcare costs on average, while Suffering groups have 50% higher costs. Bell and Harris offered innovative new approaches to increase well-being, such as offering healthy meals to commuters, playing explorative, social, and goal-oriented wellness games, and incentivizing behavioral change.
A panel discussion on current initiatives and prevention efforts around chronic diseases followed. Dr. Arun Chockalingam, Director of the Office of Global Health at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, presented on cardiovascular disease control, and Ms. Paulina Duker of the American Diabetes Association, discussed partnerships, legislation, and available resources for those living with diabetes. Dr. Walter Koroshetz from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, highlighted the high prevalence of strokes, and the simplest way to avoid them by reducing blood pressure. Dr. Lorien Abrams, from George Washington University’s Public Health Communication & Marketing Department, introduced international trends in mobile phone usage and how these devices can be further utilized for public health interventions.
Over lunch, Dentzer facilitated a wrap-up discussion asking for final comments and perspectives from the audience. Representatives from Iraq, Nigeria, Eritrea, Nepal, the Gambia, and Suriname, among others, spoke to cultural, economic, and religious challenges in dealing with global health issues. The afternoon concluded having highlighted many critical areas of chronic disease including prevention, education and advocacy efforts, as well as the crucial need for greater cooperation from the international health community. For a video recording of the conference, please click here
About Meridian: Meridian International Center’s mission is to strengthen international understanding and serve as a center of innovation for engaging the public sector, private sector and diplomatic community in an exchange of people, ideas and culture. For more information, visit www.meridian.org