A year ago, I embarked on my journey as Director of Access Accelerated, bringing with me a long history of supporting global noncommunicable disease (NCD) policy and advocacy efforts, including Access Accelerated. Reflecting on the past year, it has been truly dynamic—both challenging and profoundly rewarding. This has been a period of transformative change for Access Accelerated —one that has seen us evolve from a familiar model, navigate through a period of transition, and now looking ahead to an exciting future with a renewed sense of purpose and impactful collaboration with the World Bank Group and other partners.

I am grateful for the strong legacy left by my predecessor, Martin Bernhardt, who continues to champion our efforts. In the early days of my role, the path forward was not entirely clear. Unforeseen external factors prompted us to recalibrate our partnership with the World Bank and reassess how Access Accelerated can best address the most pressing needs facing the global NCD community. These challenges became a catalyst for innovation, pushing us to reimagine how Access Accelerated can best make unique and important contributions towards improving the lives of people living with NCDs.

Throughout this period of transition, maximizing positive impacts on people living with NCDs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has remained our top priority. This unwavering focus has ensured that key decisions made are rooted in the local needs of the people, communities, and countries that we serve. We listened closely to country partners and experts, hearing the need for locally-relevant, innovative, and impactful solutions to the largely overlooked challenge of NCD financing, and the imperative to make progress towards the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building country capacity for NCD financing, creating opportunities for country:country learning, and providing programmatic seed funding to strengthen financing for NCDs, emerged as focal areas for our efforts in the next phase of our partnership.

Our journey was supported and bolstered by the continuing commitment of our Access Accelerated members. Their openness to the evolution of our partnership model with the World Bank Group is a testament to their shared belief in Access Accelerated’s mission. This spirit of collaboration extends to new member companies like Novo Nordisk, whose commitment strengthens our collective effort and reinforces the potential impact of our renewed partnership with the World Bank.

Carissa Vados (Novo Nordisk) with Herb Riband (Access Accelerated) at the Access Accelerated WHA side-event in Geneva, 2024

I am proud of Access Accelerated’s strong recent presence in key global health discussions and dialogues. We co-hosted a roundtable on NCD financing with the NCD Alliance and World Diabetes Foundation on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2023, and hosted/co-hosted two dedicated NCD financing side-event discussions at this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva. Most recently, I was honored to be invited to attend and speak at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. for the second International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health, co-hosted by the World Bank and WHO. These engagements underscore Access Accelerated’s unique position as a private sector-led collaborative initiative that is actively shaping the global NCD financing agenda.

Perhaps the most profound moment for me came during the recent International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing. I was approached by four different representatives from the World Bank who described to me the positive impacts that Access Accelerated’s support had on their efforts to drive country-led programs to improve the lives of people living with NCDs in various regions of the world. While we rigorously measure our impact and share stories of success, these personal interactions serve as potent reminders of the tangible human impacts we are effecting on the ground.

From left to right: Tonny Muthee (World Bank Group), Jumana Qamruddin (World Bank Group, and Herb Riband (Access Accelerated) at the International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health, Washington D.C., 2024

As we move forward with our new partnership model with the World Bank, we continue to value the constructive relationships we have co-created over many years. Our collaborations with City Cancer Challenge, PATH, NCD Alliance, and the World Heart Federation, among others, have provided a bedrock of experience and expertise in NCD prevention and control. These relationships will continue to be critical as we work to convene a powerful network of health and finance experts, advocates, decision-makers and people with lived experience in a collective effort to close the NCD financing gap.

Looking ahead, we are very excited that the selection and launch of our first Regional NCD Financing Accelerator in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the near-term horizon. We are eager to translate strategy into tangible impact, with plans to expand this model further to Latin America and Asia in the coming years as part of a global network of accelerators dedicated to NCD financing. And this is just the beginning! I am confident that we will continue to see Access Accelerated making unique and important contributions, helping us to achieve our mission of building resilient health systems, supporting thriving communities, and positively impacting more people living with NCDs.

I am honoured to continue to serve as the Director of Access Accelerated. Thank you to so many for your trust and continued partnership. We strongly believe that we are working on the right issues, at the right time, with the right partners, to positively impact the health and lives of so many people around the world.

So, let’s get going – upwards and onwards!

Herb Riband
Director, Access Accelerated