F or several decades, global health agendas have been dominated by the burden of endemic infections, such as malaria, and epidemics caused by respiratory viruses, HIV and the resurgence of tuberculosis (TB). Recently, under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies , attention has been directed towards the growing morbidity and mortality attributable to chronic diseases (which are predominantly cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic or neoplastic in nature), as well as the fact that in many countries the strategies and resources to address these major public health challenges are either nonexistent or rudimentary . In 2005, it was estimated that 35 million of all worldwide deaths were attributable to chronic diseases. This is twice the number of deaths caused by all infectious diseases, including HIV, TB and malaria, along with malnutrition and perinatal mortality . The burden is not only in human suffering, but it also represents a significant economic burden on societies and health systems; estimates are that a majority of this future burden will occur in developing, rather than developed, countries. In response to these realities, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has recently adopted a resolution that calls upon nations to address the increasing burden of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases . Moreover, in May 2010, the Assembly voted in favour of convening a special assembly of the UN in 2011 to focus on the prevention and control of chronic diseases. This timely recognition of the importance of chronic diseases creates the opportunity for the respiratory community to demonstrate leadership and focus its attention on key strategies to address chronic respiratory diseases. This leadership was evident with the formation, in 2006, of the Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD), a formal alliance of patient and professional bodies and governments within the WHO with the mandate to promote ‘‘a world where all people breathe freely’’. GARD has developed a strategic plan and has promoted the enactment of national initiatives, which, to date, include more than 40. Projects within countries vary, but they share the similar aim of providing a coordinated national approach in addressing the control and management of chronic respiratory diseases and allergies; in most instances, these have involved the unprecedented co-operation between different professional societies, with respiratory societies playing a significant leadership role. A further co-operative initiative was the declaration of 2010 as the Year of the Lung. This project called on societies to consider ways of focusing communities and authorities on the need to consider lung health as a priority, and had the support of a large number of national and international societies.