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The ‘noncommunicable disease space’: Ethnographies of conferences, advocacy and outrage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Public Health
Early online date6 Jul 2020
Accepted/In press27 Jun 2020
E-pub ahead of print6 Jul 2020

King's Authors


Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are a complex category composed of five diseases and five behavioural and environmental risk factors. These are, in turn, represented by multiple constituencies and communities of expertise and interest. This fractured landscape is evidenced by and magnified through an abject lack of conferences devoted to the category of NCDs. One of the very few is the NCD Alliance Forum, most recently held in February 2020 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. With the first Forum held in 2015 and another in 2017, these events offer powerful insight into the key actors, advocacy strategies, debates and aspirations of those working in the ‘NCD space’. Using the Forum as its object of research and analysis, this paper critically reflects on two persistent questions facing NCD advocates. First, how might NCDs be more like infectious diseases in cultivating a sense of urgency and action? Second, is NCD advocacy a ‘movement’ or a ‘community’ of loosely connected actors? Set against the emerging COVID-19 outbreak, which at the time of the Forum was limited to China and a handful of other countries, the Forum offered a unique opportunity to reflect upon the significant challenges facing NCD advocates across global north and south. COVID-19 only highlights how rising rates of NCDs have made global populations vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases. Yet, as the paper concludes, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, the future of NCD advocacy and funding looks ever more fragile even as evidence of its need continues to grow.

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