About seven million deaths can be prevented by 2030 if low and lower-middle income countries make an additional investment of less than a dollar per person each year in the prevention and treatment of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
In the latest report — Saving lives spending less: the case for investing in Non Communicable Diseases– , the WHO stated that seven out of ten deaths in the world are caused by NCDs that include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease. Noting that 85 per cent of premature deaths (between ages 30-69) from NCDs occur in low and middle-income countries, the WHO report said that it is a huge health and socioeconomic burden.
It also noted that their impact on lower income countries is often underestimated. The UN Agency points out that vast majority of the deaths can be prevented using WHOs tried and tested NCD Best Buy interventions. These include cost effective measures to reduce tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, improve diets, increase physical activity, reduce risks from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and prevent cervical cancer.
“Keeping people healthy reduces health costs, increases productivity and leads to longer and healthier lives,” the report stressed.
CHANGING THE TRAJECTORY
In the forward, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “with the right strategic investments, countries that bear a significant amount of the NCD burden can change their disease trajectory and deliver significant health and economic gains for their citizens. In a world filled with uncertainty, one thing we can be certain of is that without action, NCDs will continue to be a significant threat to global health. Investing in these evidence-based policies is an investment in a healthy future.”
BEST BUY POLICIES
The WHO in the report recommends about 16 Best Buy policies that will not only protect people from NCDs, but also reduce the impact of infectious diseases like COVID-19 in the future.
WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs and Injuries Michael R. Bloomberg has a point to say that NCDs take a terrible health and economic toll, especially on countries that can least afford it. “We know the prevention measures that work best, and hopefully this new report leads more governments to take the smart, cost-effective actions that can help save millions of lives around the world,” he said.
NCD Best Buy Interventions
The 16 interventions are
- Increase excise taxes and prices on tobacco products
- Implement plain/standardized packaging and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages
- Enact and enforce comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
- Eliminate exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in all indoor workplaces, public places and public transport
- Implement effective mass-media campaigns that educate the public about the harms of smoking/tobacco use and second-hand smoke
- Increase excise taxes on alcoholic beverages
- Enact and enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on exposure to alcohol advertising (across multiple types of media)
- Enact and enforce restrictions on the physical availability of alcohol in sales outlets (via reduced hours of sale)
- Reduce salt intake through the reformulation of food products to contain less salt, and the setting of maximum permitted levels for the amount of salt in food.
- Reduce salt intake through establishing a supportive environment in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, workplaces and nursing homes, to enable low-salt options to be provided
- Reduce salt intake through behavior change communication and mass-media campaigns
- Reduce salt intake through the implementation of front-of-pack labelling
Implement community-wide public education and awareness campaigns or physical activity, including mass-media campaigns combined with other community-based education, motivational and environmental programmes aimed at supporting behavioral change around physical-activity levels
MANAGE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE AND DIABETES
- Provide drug therapy (including glycemic control for diabetes mellitus and
- Control of hypertension using a total-risk approach) and counselling for individuals who have had a heart attack or stroke and for persons with high risk (≥ 30%) of a fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular event in the next 10 years
HPV VACCINATION & CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING
- Vaccination against human papillomavirus (two doses) of girls aged 9 to 13 years
- Prevention of cervical cancer by screening women aged 30 to 49 years, either through visual inspection with acetic acid linked with timely treatment of precancerous lesions; pap smear (cervical cytology) every 3 to 5 years, linked with timely treatment of precancerous lesions; human papillomavirus tests every 5 years, linked with timely treatment of precancerous lesions