U-M to host international conference on NCD prevention in August

The University of Michigan was selected as the co-organizer with the World NCD Federation for a large international conference focused on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The World NCD Congress 2020 will take place August 1-6, 2020 on U-M campus in Ann Arbor and aims to reach 1,000 or more healthcare, public health and experts from other sectors from many countries around the world. The conference theme is "Knowledge to action: Preventing noncommunicable diseases at all levels."

Dr. Saran with a U-M delegation at the first World NCD Congress meeting in India in 2017. The meeting this year will take place in Ann Arbor.

This event marks just the second World NCD Congress – the inaugural conference in India was held in 2017 – and is the first such meeting in the United States. The call for abstracts and submissions is open through February 24, 2020. Registration will open in mid-February.

As Chair of the World NCD Congress 2020 and the meeting’s chief organizer, Rajiv Saran, U-M Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, has been responsible for bringing the event to Ann Arbor. He directs a steering committee of 30-plus U-M delegates from seven schools and colleges who are advising the scientific program.  The Department of Internal Medicine is the administrative host unit.

NCDs, also widely referred to as chronic diseases within the US, are the single largest global health threat responsible for 70% of all deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Major NCDs include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases, kidney diseases, cancer, neurologic and mental health disorders, and substance abuse.

“As communicable diseases are largely under control or on the decline, NCDs are increasingly becoming a primary driver of overall mortality, global healthcare resource utilization, suffering, disability and enormous cost for individuals and societies,” said Saran, MD, MRCP, MS. “This has devastating consequences for low- and middle- income countries and is a huge drain on the economies of developed nations.”

Underlying NCDs are multiple, often interrelated risk factors (e.g., physiological, behavioral, sociocultural and environmental). This summer’s World NCD Congress is expected to reflect that scope, attracting clinicians, epidemiologists, community health workers, urban planners, policy makers, behavioral scientists, and more.

“While it is sometimes easier said than done, it is vital for the health, public health, policy and implementation sciences to collaborate and coordinate with other sectors to deal effectively with NCDs in the coming years,” said Saran. “As a world-class academic institution with leading educators and researchers across all of these sectors, U-M is proud to host this event and convene this vital conversation.”

A number of high-profile keynote speakers and panelists have already been secured. These include world renowned researchers and policymakers, with representation so far from Finland, Taiwan, India, UK, Pakistan, Japan, Canada, and the US. Victor Strecher, U-M School of Public Health Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education, is slated to speak, as is Tadataka Yamada, the former UMMS Chair of Internal Medicine who spent five years leading the global health programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Pre-conference workshops focusing on tools necessary to tackle the NCD pandemic will be held August 1 and 2, while the official program will take place August 3-6. During the main program, one day each will focus on a related group of NCD risk factors: genetic and social determinants of health; climate and environment; mental health, sleep, substance abuse; and individual behavioral risk-factors such as diet, mindfulness and physical activity.

“A lot of conferences tend to focus only on the research findings, but we are really emphasizing action,” Saran said. “Our Congress schedule is organized as a grid with risk-factor groups being the four verticals, the horizontal tracks being more disease focused, and each day driving an intentional conversation on how we can translate knowledge relayed during the program into meaningful action.”

Abstract submissions for workshops, research presentations and learning communities of practice, are open now through Feb. 24, 2020, and early-bird registration will end April 30, 2020.

“Through an agreement with Michigan Medicine and the Internal Medicine Department, we are offering a number of scholarships for trainees from LMICs,” said Saran. “We believe it is vital to have participation not only from different disciplines and sectors, but also from different countries – keeping diversity, inclusion, and gender parity as our guiding principles throughout the program and the planning process. We have 10 countries represented in our global advisory committee. This will truly be a global conference right here in Ann Arbor.”