NIH Support Grows to Battle Global Epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases

January - February, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 1

Dr. Daar addressing the NIH scientific community on coordinating a research strategy to halt a global epidemic in non-communicable diseases.
Dr. Abdallah Daar warned of an epidemic
of chronic, non-communicable diseases.

Support is growing at NIH to find ways to battle the predicted global epidemic in chronic, non-communicable diseases, forecast to cause some 388 million deaths worldwide in the next decade.

Fogarty's Director and staff have been conducting outreach to other NIH Institutes and Centers to identify ways to leverage the considerable existing expertise to combat chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and cancer that are increasingly striking populations in the developing world.

The recent Nature article, "Grand Challenges in Chronic and Non-Communicable Diseases,"--whose authors included Fogarty Director, Dr. Roger I. Glass, and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Director, Dr. Betsy Nabel--helped galvanize the effort.

To foster continued dialogue on the topic, Fogarty invited the paper's lead author, Dr. Abdallah Daar of the McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health, to NIH for a series of discussions and presentations. In addition to consulting with Dr. Nabel and NHLBI staff, he met individually with NIH Director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Director, Dr. Griffin Rodgers; and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Director, Dr. Story Landis.

"We are encouraged that by working together with NIH partners and outside collaborators, we can transfer proven intervention strategies that can be adapted and implemented to suit the populations of developing countries," according to Dr. Glass.

During his address to the NIH scientific community, Dr. Daar called for a coordinated research strategy similar to the Human Genome Project, in order to halt the approaching global epidemic in non-communicable diseases.

"We must move away from the notion that nothing can be done, and that people only have themselves and their unhealthy lifestyles to blame. These myths and misconceptions are part of the reason why people don't get involved," he said. "The problems are complex and difficult to solve, but its feasible."

Supporting research collaborations that will stem the tide of preventable deaths from non-communicable diseases in the developing world is one of the five goals detailed in Fogarty's new strategic plan, set to be published shortly.

“While we must continue our research and training efforts in infectious diseases, we cannot ignore the terrible toll that chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer will claim in human lives over the next decade if we do not act now,” said Dr. Glass.

The full text of the Nature article "Grand Challenges in Chronic and Non-communicable Diseases" is available at:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v450/n7169/full/450494a.html 

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