Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are branded as the leading cause of global mortality. Global health thinking has dichotomised NCDs from communicable diseases to attract funding and end a dangerous neglect. However, NCDs can also have infectious disease risk factors, and mortality from NCDs is greatest in low- and middle-income countries, which face a syndemic burden of disease. As a non-term, attention is not immediately focused around key ‘human-made’ risk factors for chronic disease. By continuing to use this flawed and ambiguous label, policymakers risk enforcing an ideological approach, which fails to encourage global health researchers to work collaboratively and to capture the political and public awareness required to motivate sustainable change.