The day began with an invigorating session on the challenges posed by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The sense in the room was that unquestionably a new era for global health is upon us. Countries are simultaneously struggling with communicable and non-communicable diseases, challenging their healthcare systems to be able to address primary and secondary prevention and to effectively respond to both acute and chronic care needs. All of these challenges emerge against the backdrop of a financial crisis and in times of serious economic uncertainty, when all public spending is increasingly constrained and under scrutiny by citizens and monetary institutions alike.

I was impressed with the strong alignment of positions across international organizations, business, governments, NGOs and academic leaders in the room: we need more cross-sectoral collaboration and effective partnerships – multi-sector efforts must be translated into concrete actions with measurable impact (with independent and transparent report). The strong and repeated message is: we need to focus collaborative efforts on prevention. I feel very excited with this common view of where constructive efforts need to be invested in.

Highlighting the global nature of the issue, Dr Margaret Chan said: “These are very equitable diseases. They affect all countries across the world indiscriminately.” Most importantly when talking about progress on preventing these diseases and enabling healthy lifestyles she added that we need “enlightened self-interest and enlightened leadership”. Undoubtedly, if success against NCDs is to happen, it has to be jointly built. From the engagement in this morning’s sessions, I am delighted that I am not alone in this belief.

Pictured: Rice saplings are seen in test tubes at the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, southern China March 3, 2010. These plants have been engineered to produce higher yields and have other characteristics which make them superior to ordinary rice plants. Some experts say the world is on the cusp of a “golden age” of genomics, when a look at the DNA code will reveal your risk of cancer, diabetes or heart disease, and predict which drugs will work for you. Yet the $3 billion international Human Genome Project, whose first phase was completed a decade ago, has not led to a single blockbuster diagnosis or product. Picture taken March 3, 2010. To match SPECIAL REPORT SCIENCE/GENOME REUTERS/Bobby Yip