Confronting Chronic Diseases: Are We Prepared?

A Population Reference Bureau Symposium

(April 2007) Chronic diseases have emerged as a significant threat to health and poverty elimination. Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity now represent the greatest burden to the health of communities and place enormous pressure on health systems and economies. These and other noncommunicable diseases now account for the majority of deaths in low and middle income countries. What options do governments have for addressing this growing problem?

On April 30, 2007, a panel of distinguished researchers discussed recent research findings and ongoing public health strategies as well as other promising public policy approaches. Examples were provided from Iran and elsewhere in the developing world. In addition, the panel addressed the economic rationale for policy intervention and prospects for cost-effective approaches to the treatment and prevention of chronic disease.

Presentations: Webcasts With PowerPoints

Introduction: William P. Butz, President and CEO, Population Reference Bureau

“The Global Epidemic of Chronic Disease: Prevention by Diet & Lifestyle”

Walter Willett
, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, studied food science at Michigan State University, and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School before obtaining a Doctorate in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Willett has focused much of his work over the last 25 years on the development of methods, using both questionnaire and biochemical approaches, to study the effects of diet on the occurrence of major diseases. Dr. Willett has published over 1,000 articles, primarily on lifestyle risk factors for heart disease and cancer, and has written the textbook, Nutritional Epidemiology, published by Oxford University Press. Dr. Willett is the most cited nutritionist internationally, and is among the five most cited persons in all fields of clinical science. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many national and international awards for his research.

  • For Internet Explorer users: View webcast and synchronized PowerPoint here (32 minutes)

“The Economics of Chronic Diseases”
Rachel Nugent, Ph.D., is a senior associate in CGD’s Global Health Programs. She provides economic and policy expertise to support HPRN Working Groups, manages CGD programs on Population and Economic Development, and conducts research on other global health topics. She has 25 years of experience as a development economist, managing and carrying out research and policy analysis in the fields of health, agriculture and the environment. Prior to joining CGD, Rachel worked at the Population Reference Bureau, the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. She also served as associate professor and chair of the economics department at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Nugent’s publications include a range of topics, from the cost-effectiveness of noncommunicable disease interventions and health impacts of fiscal policies to impacts of microcredit on the environment in developing countries and economic impacts of transboundary diseases and pests.

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“OxHA’s Community Action Project to Prevent Chronic Diseases”
Denise Stevens, Ph.D., is the President of MATRIX Public Health Consultants, Inc. MATRIX is a team of experienced public health professionals in United States and Canada, who serve local, state, national and international clients in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Dr. Stevens has over a decade of experience in strategic planning, resource development and program management and evaluation. Prior to forming MATRIX PHC, she held positions in both academia and the public sector. Her work to date in the area of evidence-based practices has led to policy reform in health and human services delivery at the local, state and national levels. Her current work focuses on translational research involving comprehensive strategies for the prevention of chronic disease. Ms. Stevens currently holds a Lecturer position within the Yale School of Medicine and volunteers on several boards providing services to youth.

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Discussant: Sylvia Robles, MD, MSc, is the Unit Chief of noncommunicable diseases for the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO)where she oversees technical cooperation projects on NCD Prevention and Control for 28 countries. A national of Chile, Dr. Robles obtained her degrees at the University of Toronto. Dr. Robles has worked as an epidemiologist in underserved areas and has coordinated epidemiology training programs in Central America. During her assignments, she has been responsible for health situation analyses at the local level and for evaluation of field interventions. Before joining PAHO, she worked on the evaluation of primary health care and tobacco control. She was a senior editor for the 1992 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco and Health in the Americas.

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