Globalization and Health
[Accessed 7 June 2014]
The role of law and governance reform in the global response to non-communicable diseases
Roger S Magnusson and David Patterson
Globalization and Health 2014, 10:44 doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-44
Published: 5 June 2014
Addressing non-communicable diseases (“NCDs”) and their risk-factors is one of the most powerful ways of improving longevity and healthy life expectancy for the foreseeable future – especially in low- and middle-income countries. This paper reviews the role of law and governance reform in that process. We highlight the need for a comprehensive approach that is grounded in the right to health and addresses three aspects: preventing NCDs and their risk factors, improving access to NCD treatments, and addressing the social impacts of illness. We highlight some of the major impediments to the passage and implementation of laws for the prevention and control of NCDs, and identify important practical steps that governments can take as they consider legal and governance reforms at country level.We review the emerging global architecture for NCDs, and emphasise the need for governance structures to harness the energy of civil society organisations and to create a global movement that influences the policy agenda at the country level. We also argue that the global monitoring framework would be more effective if it included key legal and policy indicators. The paper identifies priorities for technical legal assistance in implementing the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020. These include high-quality legal resources to assist countries to evaluate reform options, investment in legal capacity building, and global leadership to respond to the likely increase in requests by countries for technical legal assistance. We urge development agencies and other funders to recognise the need for development assistance in these areas. Throughout the paper, we point to global experience in dealing with HIV and draw out some relevant lessons for NCDs.