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Communities to Act on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Media release from the South African Non-communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCDA) and the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA)

6 September 2021 – This Global Week for Action on NCDs (6 – 12 September 2021), the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCDA), of which the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) is a founding partner, celebrate the progress made in raising the profile of people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in SA. Together with other civil society members, the Global Week of Action on NCDs hails the power and potential of people to act together on and drive NCDs change. The aim is to ensure that commitments made by government to improve health for people living with NCDs, will become a reality. The challenges presented by COVID-19 will not compromise action to help relieve the NCDs burden. #ActOnNCDs #NCDvoices

Dr Vicki Pinkney-Atkinson, Director of the SANCDA says, “In SA, the people’s NCDs movement struggles to make the government recognise and meaningfully involve diverse groups, including people living with NCDs to reduce the NCDs burden. Government and other stakeholders committed to global targets to prevent and control NCDs and improve the health of the nation. Now we need to these commitments translate into meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

Many NCDs are preventable, yet they remain the number one cause of death and disability globally and in SA. Diabetes is still the leading cause of death in SA women. NCDs are mainly driven by five preventable risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and air pollution. Weak health systems, under-investment and lack of accountability by government contributes to increasing the NCDs burden. NCDs include health conditions which usually don’t spread from person to person. Examples are cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and mental health conditions.

“If every person exercises the right to participate in decision making about their health we would have more accountability for NCDs prevention and care. The SANCDA and our many partners urge the people, including those living with NCDs, to join us in our quest to accelerate action on NCDs. Together we will hold the authorities to account for meeting our needs. What we demand is understanding community needs better, helping to identify gaps, developing options in response to challenges, understand the impact of decisions on different people, and balance input, perspectives and interests,” adds Pinkney-Atkinson, herself living with more than 20 NCDs.

By working together, civil society and the SANCDA highlights the actions undertaken to close the NCDs gap. Achievements include:

  • Teaming up with the Dullah Omar Institute with its expertise in constitutional law and human rights to explore how law and treaties advance the NCDs agenda. Legal measures against government for its failure to meet commitments to rights and equity are part of this.
  • Working with the National Department of Health to craft the national NCDs policy (due for publication soon).
  • Joining forces with local and global social movements representing people left behind, including those focussed on stigmatised NCDs conditions like disability, mental health and obesity.
  • Coordinating consistent civil society policy action across all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) linked to NCDs prevention and control such as poverty, hunger, and emergency-disaster preparedness and responses to COVID-19.
  • Calls for inclusive NCD governance mechanisms to secure the role of people living with NCDs and civil society in health policy at national, regional and international levels, since 2013. SANCDA endorses the Global Charter on Meaningful Involvement of People
  • Living with NCDs. As a tool this will ensure meaningful involvement and transparency.
    Consistently communicating by leveraging outrage, rebuking injustice, translating evidence, sharing personal stories, celebrating successes, and campaigning collaboratively for the annual Global Week of Action on NCDs and other milestone days, weeks and political campaigns. It includes using traditional social media to make noise, demand change, and put issues, insights, and possible solutions in front of policymakers based on human rights and dignity..

Pinkney-Atkinson states, “During COVID-19, we experienced the devastating effects of neglect of NCDs and failure to invest in our health systems. Role players can prevent a repetition of this and can help close gaps and deliver progress on NCDs.”

Global Charter on Meaningful Involvement of People Living with NCDs

#ActOnNCDs through social media

People affected by NCDs can be a voice of change by sharing their own messages of support by going to the Global Week for Action on NCDs Map of Impact on . The Voices of Change online picture generator will quickly and easily upload a message and picture and share it on social media.

The SANCDA encourages all to get involved and share messages of support on social media platforms using the hashtags: #ActOnNCDs #NCDvoices. Or mobilise action and be an agent of change –

(For more information, please contact Vicki Pinkney-Atkinson, Director SANCDA email: or mobile +27-83-38-38-159 or Lucy Balona, Head: Marketing and Communication at CANSA at email Call 011 616 7662 or mobile 082 459 5230).

About Global Week for Action on NCDs

In 2018 and 2019, the global NCDs movement united under the ENOUGH campaign, ahead of the UN High-Level Meetings on Noncommunicable Diseases (2018) and Universal Health Coverage (2019), where governments made many ambitious commitments to improve health for all.

From 2020 until the next UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2025, via the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in 2023, the Global Week for Action on NCDs aims to demand action which will help existing commitments become a reality, so that all people can enjoy healthier lives.

About NCDs+

NCDs+ are a large group of health conditions that are generally not spread from person to person and used to be called chronic illness until 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals forced a new definition. The five main NCDs groups of conditions are noted: diabetes, circulatory disorders, mental health, cancer, and chronic respiratory illnesses. However, many more NCDs do not often get a mention leading to more neglect. Globally, NCDs are responsible for 41 million deaths annually and since 2013 NCDs lead the death toll in South Africa. Diabetes is the leading cause of death among South African women.

However, the NCDs agenda is not just about individual illness and needs a whole of society and whole of government response. And, for this to happen, SA needs an expanded understanding, meaning- expressed as NCDs+. The expanded NCDs+ advocacy agenda includes prevention, vulnerable populations, stigma control, disability and injuries of all kinds. NCDs+ has many possible causes or determinants (social, economic, and commercial) that disproportionately impact poor people. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprehensively address NCDs+ and their inclusion as equal to universal health coverage. (National Health Insurance in South Africa).

About the SA NCDs+ Alliance

The SA NCDs Alliance, established eight years ago, is a civil society partnership between three trusted NCDs advocacy organisations: CANSA, Diabetes SA and the Heart & Stroke Foundation SA. Its mission is for the people of South Africa to get equitable access to quality NCDs+ prevention and management within universal health coverage/ NHI.For this important COVID-19 and NCDs+ advocacy project, nearly 90 civil society organisations are collaborating
Insert the organisational list

NCDs+ Advocacy Equity Partners

  • Arthritis Foundation of South Africa (AFSA)
  • Cancer Alliance South Africa
  • Dementia SA
  • Dullah Omar Institute
  • Epilepsy SA
  • Global Mental Health Peer Network
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Association SA
  • Human Science Research Council South Africa (HSRC)
  • Myeloencephalopathy Chronic Fatigue Syndrome SA (ME/CFS)
  • National Kidney Foundation South Africa (NKFSA)
  • Palliative Treatment for Children South Africa (PatchSA)
  • South African Disability Association
  • South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH)
  • South African Psoriasis Association (SAPA)

Cancer Alliance South Africa incorporating 29 organisations:

amaBele Project Flamingo, Ari’s Cancer Foundation, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Course 4 Nurses (BCN), Breast Health Foundation (BHF), CANSA, Cancer Heroes, CanSurvive Cancer Support (CanSurvive), Care for Cancer Foundation, Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), Gladiators of Hope, Glynnis Gale Foundation, HPCA, Look Good Feel Better (LGFB), Love Your Nuts (LYN), Lymphoedema Association of South Africa (LAOSA), Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, Men’s Foundation, National Council Against Smoking, National Oncology Nursing Society of SA (NONSA), People Living With Cancer (PLWC), Pink Parasol Project, Pink Trees for Pauline (Pink Trees), Rainbows and Smiles, Reach for Recovery (R4R), South African Oncology Social Workers’ Forum (SAOSWF), The Sunflower Fund (TSF), Wings of Hope (WoH)

South African Disability Alliance incorporating 23 organisations:

Autism South Africa, Blind SA, Cheshire Homes SA, Dementia SA, Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG), Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA), Epilepsy South Africa, Muscular Dystrophy Foundation SA (MDSA), National Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy (NAPCP), National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa (OTASA), Quad Para Association of South Africa (QASA), Quadriplegic & Paraplegic Charitable Trust – South Africa; South African Association of Audiologists (SAAA), SAFM, South African National Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Persons (SANABP); South African National Deaf Association (SANDA), The Leprosy Mission Southern Africa/RampUp, Uhambo Foundation / Shonaquip, Stroke Survivor’s Foundation (SSF)

South African Federation for Mental Health incorporating 17 mental health societies:

Port Elizabeth Mental Health, Mpumalanga Mental Health, Vaal Triangle, Cape Mental Health, Northern Free State, Uitenhage Mental Health, Durban and Coastal, North Gauteng Mental Health, Pietermaritzburg Mental Health, Limpopo Mental Health, Rehab Mental Health, Zululand Mental Health, Central Gauteng Mental Health, Laudium Mental Health, North West Mental Health, Southern Free State, Northern Cape Mental Health

CANSA offers a unique integrated service to the public and to all people affected by cancer. CANSA is a leading role-player in cancer research and the scientific findings and knowledge gained from our research are used to realign our health programmes, as well as strengthen our watchdog role to the greater benefit of the public. Our health programmes comprise health and education campaigns; CANSA Care Centres that offer a wide range of care and support services to those affected by cancer; stoma and other clinical support; medical equipment hire, as well as a toll-free line to offer information and support. We offer a Tele Counselling service in seven languages free of charge. We also supply patient care and support in the form of 8 CANSA Care Homes in the main metropolitan areas for out-of-town cancer patients and CANSA-TLC lodging for parents and guardians of children undergoing cancer treatment.

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