The Fight Against Noncommunicable Diseases Gains Momentum

Last week I attended a new effort spearheaded by the Global Health Council (GHC) to address the growing challenge of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). At its Washington, D.C. offices, the Council brought together a range of stakeholders to launch the NCD Roundtable. Chaired by the American Cancer Society and the NCD Alliance, along with the GHC, the Roundtable is an ambitious and timely effort by the Council to coordinate the range of efforts underway this year leading up to the high level UN Summit in September, and beyond.

The Roundtable is planning to move its work forward along several planks, each led by a separate working group. At the launch event, we formed working groups to deal with the following issues: updates on UN processes, developing policy recommendations, stakeholder outreach, and communications.

Through our work with dozens of clients in formulating strategic plans, especially those involving multiple parties, FSG has developed considerable expertise in what we call collective impact strategies. I thought I would share my views on three action items that would be important for the Roundtable and the Working Groups to keep in mind as we move forward in this work:

  1. Set A Range of Milestones: While there are overlaps between the working groups, each will need a clear plan for what it wants to achieve against a specific timeline. In addition to the most significant milestones, interim outputs are also important. For example, as the policy working group prepares to develop and launch a public report, it will be important to identify a series of intermediate steps (e.g., feedback from other members, launch plan developed in coordination with the communications working group, etc.) for the report to be successful.

  2. Identify Tangible and Practical Asks: The Roundtable includes participants from the private sector, NGOs, consulting firms, government agencies, and industry associations. Each brings a comparative advantage in what it can contribute. The working groups need to identify realistic contributions from each member that can keep the work moving forward without overly burdening any single member. For example, industry members can contribute vignettes about their current NCD programs around the world, which can be compiled into a database to glean best practices on NCD diagnosis and treatment models.

  3. Develop a Collective Impact Strategy: Finally, it will also be important to develop some broader goals for the roundtable so its work can fit in with the effort of others (e.g., the UN, developing country governments, etc.) in the field. Is the immediate goal to achieve a specific outcome at the UN Summit, to get country governments to commit to a certain amount of resources, to get increased funding from international donors, all of the above? Who else is working on these and how does the Roundtable’s work fit in with theirs? Identifying and prioritizing through this list will be important in developing a collective impact strategy to address NCDs through a truly global effort.

The GHC deserves praise for its initiative. A lot of work is ahead of us and as with all such efforts, excitement is high in the beginning. The key will be identifying realistic plans, updating and modifying them as needed, and showing tangible, even if small, progress at regular intervals in order to keep everyone engaged. Whether you’re a participant in the Roundtable or not, how do you think we should move forward in this bold effort? What else would be helpful for the Roundtable to consider?

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