Press Release

Expert meeting in Cape Town to tackle global epidemic of chronic disease: OxHA press release, November 2006

As chronic disease is now the world’s number one killer and globalisation is driving the epidemic into the world’s developing countries, the Oxford Health Alliance will convene in South Africa next week (20–22 November) to discuss what action must be taken. The Alliance – a diverse, global group united by outrage over this preventable, rapidly escalating epidemic – will look to find innovative solutions to this ever-growing problem.

In middle- and lower-income countries, 80% of deaths are due to chronic disease, bringing a double burden to those countries that are already grappling with infectious diseases, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  For example,

  • In South Africa, one in three men and 50% of women are overweight. Cardiovascular disease is the commonest cause of death for those aged 45 and older.
  • In Uganda, where the population totals 28 million, 1 million people are diabetic.
  • In Gambia, nearly a third of urban women aged 35 and over are obese.
  • In Cameroon, 35% of the population is overweight or obese.  600,000 have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Health services designed for providing acute care for infectious diseases are struggling to cope, lacking both the knowledge and resources needed to tackle cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Additionally, a recent report from the Oxford Health Alliance has shown that chronic disease will have a negative impact of the economy of many developing countries if current trends continue. Despite this, they are still not addressed as a health priority in the Millennium Development Goals.

Dr Stig Pramming, Executive Director of the Oxford Health Alliance, says:

‘The problem of chronic disease is an urgent one, but it’s not unsolvable. However, it will require a new approach, which is why our summit is going to be a different kind of meeting – a three-day brainstorm about how best to harness the power of new media to encourage and facilitate action on every level of society. By making better use of the internet to promote best practice, we’re hoping to demonstrate how people acting locally can make a global difference.’

For the first time, the Oxford Health Alliance will be inviting people from across the globe to participate actively in the summit by posting questions and comments via a dedicated ‘open space’ website,, which will be streaming the plenary sessions live and on-demand.

The summit will include at least 100 high-level representatives from the world of business, academia and public policy, as well as veterans of the tobacco wars, economists, nurses, urban planners and youth representatives. More than 20 countries from Africa, North and South America, Asia Pacific and Europe will be represented.  Among those who will be presenting include Tommy Thompson, former US Health Secretary, Dr Derek Yach, Director of Global Health at the Rockefeller Foundation, Professor Anthony MBewu, President of the South African MRC, and David Harrison, Chief Executive of Love Life.

To register to participate in the conference, visit  For more information on the Oxford Health Alliance, visit


To arrange an interview with Dr Stig Pramming or any of the key speakers (full list available), please contact Marisa Pulaski, PR Officer, Oxford Health Alliance on +44 207 637 4330 or

Notes to editors
The summit will be taking place at the Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town from 20–22 November 2006.

A press conference will be taking place on the first evening about the links between communicable and non-communicable diseases, entitled ‘The convergence of chronic disease – finding the common threads between HIV/AIDS, TB, diabetes and cardiovascular disease’.  This will be filmed and later posted on the conference website

The Oxford Health Alliance
Founded in 2002, the Oxford Health Alliance encourages research into the risk factors (smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise) leading to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary diseases and certain types of cancer, and advocates and facilitates action and collaboration to prevent these chronic diseases at a local, national and international level.