Chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic obstructive respiratory diseases,are neglected globally despite growing awareness of the serious burden that they cause. Global and national policies have failed to stop, and in many cases have contributed to, the chronic disease pandemic. Low-cost and highly effective solutions for the prevention of chronic diseases are readily available; the failure to respond is now a political, rather than a technical issue. We seek to understand this failure and to position chronic disease centrally on the global health and development agendas. To identify strategies for generation of increased political priority for chronic diseases and to further the involvement of development agencies, we use an adapted political process model. This model has previously been used to assess the success and failure of social movements. On the basis of this analysis,we recommend three strategies: reframe the debate to emphasise the societal determinants of disease and the interrelation between chronic disease, poverty, and development; mobilise resources through a cooperative and inclusive approach to development and by equitably distributing resources on the basis of avoidable mortality; and build one merging strategic and political opportunities, such as the World Health Assembly 2008–13 Action Plan and the high level meeting of the UN General Assembly in 2011 on chronic disease. Until the full set of threats—which include chronic disease—that trap poor households in cycles of debt and illness are addressed, progress towards equitable human development will remain inadequate.