From the World’s Capital of Diplomacy to a Global Healthcare Conclave

It’s that time of year, when the annual conclave of health ministers from 193 countries forms in Geneva for the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO). It’s the 68th time they are getting together, and one of the key health issues on the agenda is noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and specifically how diabetes became an even more enormous global health challenge over the last decade.

It’s not just what takes place at the WHA itself that‘s important; there are lots of side events taking place too. One key event is being organised by the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF), which marks the launch of the World Diabetes Day campaign. The WHO will be part of a panel session at the event looking at how healthy eating can help slow the diabetes epidemic. As a further indication of the urgency and attention needed in tackling this global health challenge, the WHO has dedicated next year’s World Health Day to diabetes.

In Europe alone, over 56 million people live with the disease, and this is expected to increase to 70 million by 2035. The WHA agenda reflects the reality that fighting this epidemic is not a European issue; it requires coordinated efforts on a global scale. Developing and implementing comprehensive policies to improve prevention and early diagnosis, and ensure access to quality care, forms part of the solution. Here at Lilly, we have been committed to diabetes for over 90 years and partnership with others has been central to our work.

At the heart of all that needs to be done to combat NCDs, including diabetes, is the need for strong health care systems. Through our global health partnerships we work to train health workers and build health system capacities, including improving diabetes management in hospitals and clinics and raising disease awareness among at-risk populations. The global strategy on public health up for discussion at the WHA will help set out what’s working best and what solutions are needed to drive these types of initiatives forward. Taking this forward in partnership with others will be key - global health is too big a mountain to climb for just one stakeholder.