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Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh

Noncommunicable diseases or NCDs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the WHO South-East Asia Region. All Member States of the Region have agreed on concrete time-bound commitments on NCDs and have embarked on a multisectoral response to face the challenges related to their prevention and control.

Civil society organizations are also a key partner in this response. Civil society has at least three major unique functions in NCD prevention and control. First, in regard to advocacy and galvanizing action at all levels to stimulate public and political awareness and interest in NCDs; second, to ensure accountability by tracking commitments by governments and other stakeholders—including those in the private sector; and third, in the area of service delivery, to extend and enhance NCD cares to supplement those provided by governments. Whatever the function, it is important that government, civil society and other stakeholders work in partnership to synergize the responses for maximum efficiency.

The South-East Asia Region has a number of civil society organizations contributing to the health agenda, but Sri Lanka is the first country to formalize a cohesive civil society movement on NCD prevention and control—the NCD Alliance Lanka.

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Sri Lanka for leading the Region with this bold step towards a truly multisectoral response to overcoming the challenge of NCDs.