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Health research agencies form global alliance to curb humanity's most fatal diseases

Seattle, WA, USA - Six of the world's foremost health agencies, collectively managing an estimated 80% of all public health research funding, today announced formation of a landmark alliance to collaborate in the critical battle against chronic, non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), several cancers, chronic respiratory conditions, and type 2 diabetes.

The health impact and socio-economic cost of these largely-preventable diseases is enormous and rising, potentially derailing efforts at poverty reduction.

The Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (Alliance) is being created to support clear priorities for a coordinated research effort that will address this growing health crisis, now reaching world epidemic proportions. Experts estimate that, unless action is stepped up, 388 million people worldwide will die of one or more such diseases within the next decade.

Work of the Alliance will focus in particular on the needs of low and middle income countries, and on those of low income populations of more developed countries.

The Alliance's charter members are:

  • Australia National Health and Medical Research Council;
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research;
  • Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences;
  • The U.K. Medical Research Council; and
  • The U.S. National Institutes of Health, specifically its National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and the Fogarty International Center.

The Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, will be invited to join the Alliance as a member. Research agencies from other countries and private funders may be invited to join in a second wave.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is joining the Alliance as an observer to facilitate Alliance support for implementation of the World Health Assembly-approved "Action Plan for the Global Strategy for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases" (

The following research priorities have been proposed by some founding Alliance members, for discussion at their inaugural scientific meetings in November:

  • Test ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases and complications of diabetes;
  • Identify and promote public health measures for controlling obesity;
  • Characterize and quantify the major risk factors for chronic obstructive airways disease (both tobacco and environmental pollution) and the development of control measures; and
  • Advance research into the problem of tobacco consumption and its relationship to cancer, cardiovascular disease and other disorders;
  • Develop interventions to address the above priorities.

The proposed priorities were identified in a collaborative paper, "Grand Challenges in Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases," published in the journal Nature (Vol 450|22, Nov. 2007). Based on a global Delphi survey, this widely-cited research paper has been acknowledged as a sound, systematic framework for reaching practical policy solutions to the prevention and treatment of humanity's most common chronic diseases.

Setting research priorities for non-communicable disease prevention will be closely coordinated with WHO.

A future Alliance research priority is likely to be in the area of mental health.


Contact: Terry Collins
Program on Life Sciences, Ethics and Policy,McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

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