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UN Summit Sets the Right Direction for Tackling Global Epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases


GE Healthcare develops technologies for rural healthcare


Mike Barber, GE’s vice president, healthymagination

This week's United Nations Summit on Non-communicable Diseases (NCD) in New York has succeeded in putting non-communicable diseases firmly on the global political, economic and social agenda. The resulting Declaration will be one of the most effective tools that the UN has for driving global cooperation and action against NCD in the global health community and will serve to help guide governments and healthcare policy makers around the world into a coordinated effort to tackle the problem.

Mike Barber, Vice President healthymagination, GE, said: "We applaud the UN for convening this meeting and recognizing that the main burden of illness in both the developed and developing world arises from NCDs such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Even without the inclusion of specific and time-bound targets, it will help countries address the rise in lifestyle-related chronic disease, death and disability, and associated economic impact."

Chronic disease prevention rightly takes prominence in the Declaration. GE Healthcare is, however, particularly pleased that the UN has called for improvements in the early diagnosis of NCD.

"Much more must be done to improve peoples’ access to earlier and more accurate diagnosis of these diseases," said Barber. "Early, accurate diagnosis makes an enormous difference, but too often, diagnosis is late and the interventions therefore needed, if even available, are more acute and costly and have poorer outcomes for patients."

The specific call for greater access to cancer early detection and diagnostics is a clear example of where the societal and financial benefits of early NCD diagnosis are justified. The challenge now is for governments to make the appropriate technology more readily available and invest in the professional staff required in its use.

The recognition in the Declaration that maternal and child health is closely linked with NCD and their associated risk factors is also a welcome development. "Not only could the vast majority of maternal and infant deaths be prevented if women and their babies had access to basic skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the first days after delivery," Barber said, "but improving the health of mothers and their babies helps reduce risk factors such as pre-natal malnutrition and low-birth weights which can lead to NCDs in later life.

“A continued focus on the design of healthcare equipment that can address health needs in remote and underserved areas, providing evidence-based studies to shift global standards, providing more affordable and effective treatments, and establishing training for healthcare workers, will all help meet the key needs of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postnatal care, Barber said.

"The UN Summit has highlighted the growing burden and challenge of NCDs on a global stage: the next step is translating those ideals into positive concrete action. This can only be achieved through collaboration and partnerships among the public and private sectors. As a major provider of healthcare technology and service, we believe that GE Healthcare has a key role to play in this area."

Many GE Healthcare products, such as affordable and portable ultrasound technology, ECG monitors, ventilators, infant warmers and other diagnostic equipment have been designed for use in the most needy regions of the world. Here they can play a vital role in strengthening healthcare infrastructure. In more developed settings GE Healthcare technologies help improve efficiency in healthcare delivery, allowing finite financial resources to be invested to great effect and enabling more people to be diagnosed and treated for NCD  at an earlier stage when treatment outcomes are more successful and cost-effective.


Maternal and infant health is key to addressing the global burden of NCD