A little over a year ago, a group of young people - connected by a passion for addressing the leading cause of global deaths - had an idea. Re-brand the way we perceive a group of conditions, and the narrative we collectively conjure when hearing their name - Non-Communicable Diseases. Challenge the current, misguided perception that diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancers are simply the result of poor choices and laziness, and instead use inspiring stories from young health advocates to paint an accurate global and local picture.
But more than this, move beyond blame altogether. Look past the pessimism and negativity. You see, to many, this may seem like one of the largest challenges of our century. A disease burden which threatens to undo the health and development progress of the last one-hundred years, and on a scale that could well cripple not only our national health budget - but the budgets of some of the poorest nations globally.
A New Narrative
But this is not the way these young people see it - and I am one. NCDs present not only a threat, but also enormous opportunities. This is the focus of NCDFREE. A chance for the collective global and local communities to make big, urgent and necessary changes to our lives and lifestyles - but also to our societal actions, our cities and our healthcare systems.
Overcoming this challenge wouldn’t mean that we can no longer live happy lives, or that we need to stop enjoying what we eat. Nor does it mean we need to ban anything that makes us fat or mandate gruelling exercise. Overcoming this challenge would see us rethink and redesign our cities to make exercise a normal part of daily life - safe and routine. It would see us change our food systems to make healthier foods more affordable and “sometimes” foods less ubiquitous.
We would invest more heavily in primary care, prevention and public health, an investment that could make us back twice what we lay out. We would use technology to our advantage - to connect and empower people who want to take control of their health and provide connections and opportunities to do so via cheap, simple media.
So a year has passed since that idea was floated and thanks to some very creative design-thinkers, it is now a reality. In a few short weeks, 6 inspiring young people from around the world, will take to the stage right here in Melbourne to challenge and rewrite the narrative on NCDs. Set the record straight and provide concrete ideas on a future path for our community - and all communities - to greater health.
NCDs, including diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and cancers are not diseases of laziness. They’re not simply a result of poor choices. They are a very serious Global Health challenge, but ones which provide us with a unique opportunity to create a better future for all.
We invite you to join us.