CFA: Workshop on the Politics of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Global South, 2 and 3 October 2015

When: Friday 2 (4–7 PM) and Saturday 3 (9 AM–4 PM) October 2015.

Where: King’s College London, Strand Campus, London, United Kingdom.

Dr David Reubi

Dr David Reubi

Organisers: Dr David Reubi (Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, david.reubi@kcl.ac.uk); Dr Sophie Harman (School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London, s.harman@qmul.ac.uk) and Dr Tim Brown (School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London, tim.brown@qmul.ac.uk).

Over the last ten years, there has been mounting alarm about the growing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) epidemic in the global South and the health and economic burden it represents. International organisations like the WHO have published numerous reports and action plans to tackle this new epidemic. Likewise, governments have expressed concern about this rising threat, recently passing a Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs at the United Nations. Public health experts, too, have called for more attention to be paid to this new epidemic, as illustrated by The Lancet’s frequent special issues on the topic. Last but not least, health charities and patient organisations have also voiced their anxiety and recently established, with the support of the pharmaceutical industry, the NCD Alliance to campaign for action against the chronic disease epidemic in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). As these different actors have repeatedly argued, NCDs – usually defined as comprising four conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disorders) related to four behavioural risk factors (diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol) – have become a critical issue for LMICs. Drawing on complex epidemiological data, they point out that more than 60% of deaths worldwide are NCD-related and nearly 80% of these deaths occur in these countries. Such a high prevalence of NCDs, they argue, constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century. On one hand, NCDs are viewed as a negative consequence of socio-economic development, with economic growth and rapid urbanisation having led to the rise of modern lifestyles like smoking and drinking. On the other hand, NCDs are understood to be a serious threat to future development through both their negative impact on the productivity of working age populations and the double burden of disease they place on already overstretched health systems.

While there is a growing public health literature on NCDs in the global South, the interventions by more critical social science researchers have been sparse. Organised by the Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine at King’s College London and the Schools of Politics & International Relations and Geography at Queen Mary University of London, this workshop is a first step towards addressing this gap. We invite political scientists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, geographers and public health experts interested to examine current initiatives to problematise and govern the chronic disease epidemic in emerging economies to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to David Reubi (david.reubi@kcl.ac.uk) by 15 March 2015. Among others, submissions may explore the making of chronic disease as a problem of development in international forums and across countries of the global South. They may, for example, examine the narratives through which the problem is framed and analyse the techniques such as epidemiological models and maps that make it possible to view chronic diseases as a development issue. Submissions may also consider the influence of the tobacco, alcohol and food companies in globalising risk factors associated with NCDs as well as the role of the pharmaceutical industry and philanthropic foundations in creating drug markets for chronic diseases in the global South. Alternatively, submissions can also investigate the way health advocates and patient groups in the global South translate, resist and re-appropriate the international public health strategies that aim to mitigate against the epidemic in the global South. Thanks to the generous financial support of the both the Wellcome Trust and the UK Economic and Social Research Council, the organisers will be able to fund travel to and from the workshop as well as accommodation for all the speakers.

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