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Goals are Not Enough: Building Public Sector Capacity for Chronic Disease Prevention

Abstract

The rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) challenges the public health sector to develop, support and implement effective interventions to reduce this global epidemic. The United Nations has responded with a global action plan that includes goals and voluntary targets for the prevention and control of NCDs. However, setting goals is not enough. To achieve meaningful outcomes, governments must act and invest to improve key enabling capacities. Political and other public sector leadership at every jurisdictional level is needed to implement health-in-all-policies initiatives and to measure progress against set objectives, while technological and human resources for health should be developed with a focus on public health competencies. NCD surveillance and monitoring systems must be strengthened to ensure a rapid policy cycle, and public health research capacity should be built up, not only to assess the NCD challenge, but also to develop, adapt and apply new techniques and tools with the participation of decision-makers. Government and civil society partnerships are increasingly important, especially at the local level, to build multipliers, foster equity, and meet the needs of populations at risk. Given the magnitude of the NCD burden, prevention and management approaches require growth and alignment of innovative financial supports to reduce direct health expenditures and lost wages while increasing productivity. Lastly, making progress on NCDs requires a range of integrated, programmatic, health communications activities in addition to sound public policies that cross the health and non-health care sectors.

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Correspondence to Heather Manson MD, MHSc.

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Key Words

  • Chronic disease
  • capacity building
  • public sector
  • leadership