The United Nations High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will take place in New York on September 19 and 20, 2011. This historic event will focus world attention on the chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) for the first time. In 2008, CNCDs, principally cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes, accounted for 63% (or 36 million) of the 57 million deaths occurring worldwide. Many of these deaths may be considered premature (involving 9.1 million persons aged less than 60 years), and around 80% of overall deaths occurred in low and middle income countries. Chronic non-communicable diseases are therefore a major cause of premature death, with resulting enormous negative impact on national economies and global development, while continuing to increase at worrying rates particularly in the developing world. Without successful interventions, NCD-related deaths are projected to reach 52 million by 2030.