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Investing 1 dollar per person per year could save 7 million lives in low and lower-middle income countries

A
new World Health Organization report shows that close to seven million deaths could be prevented by 2030, if
low and lower-middle income countries were to make an additional investment of
less than a dollar per person per year in the prevention and treatment of
noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

NCDs
– which include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory disease –
currently cause seven out of every ten deaths around the world.

Yet
their impact on lower income countries is often underestimated, despite the
fact that 85% of premature deaths (between
ages 30-69) from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income
countries, making them a huge health and socioeconomic burden.

The
vast majority of those deaths can be prevented using WHO’s 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.

Saving
lives, spending less: the case for investing in noncommunicable diseases
, focuses on 76 low- and
lower-middle-income countries. The report explains the NCD Best Buys and shows
how every dollar invested in scaling up Best Buy actions in these countries
could generate a return of up to USD 7 – potentially USD 230 billion by 2030.

“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.” says WHO Director-General Dr
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “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.”

The
report emphasizes the urgency of investing in NCD prevention and management
given that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how many of these diseases can
worsen outcomes for COVID-19.

By
investing in the 16 recommended Best Buy policies, countries will not only protect people from
NCDs, but also reduce the impact of infectious diseases like COVID-19 in the
future.

“Noncommunicable
diseases take a terrible health and economic toll, especially on countries that
can least afford it” says WHO Global Ambassador for NCDs and Injuries Michael
R. Bloomberg. “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.”

Best
Buy actions include increasing health taxes, restrictions on marketing and
sales of harmful products, information and education, and vaccination. They
also include actions connected to
managing metabolic risk factors, such as hypertension and diabetes, in order to
prevent more severe disease or complications.

The
interventions are all relatively inexpensive and require little capital
investment, but could help avoid much of the high cost of treatment in future.
The report also indicates that while each of the interventions can be
implemented individually, the effects are stronger and produce a greater return
on investment when introduced together. With marginalized groups often at
greater risk from the physical and financial impact of NCDs, the interventions
may also help to reduce health and economic inequalities.

The
interventions have already been used successfully in many countries around the
world, with some of the success stories highlighted in the report.
International donors have also begun to use the arguments to catalyze
investment in this area: in 2019 the Norwegian Government launched the first
ever international development strategy on NCDs.

“Saving lives, spending
less: the case for investing in noncommunicable diseases
 sets
out a path on which countries can follow to deliver the next generation a
better and healthier world. The impact of COVID-19 on people living
with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and lung
diseases shows that it’s more important than ever to prioritize the
investment of prevention and management of NCDs” says Dr Bente Mikkelsen,
Director for NCDs at WHO. “We call on all our partners to follow examples like
Norway, who have stepped up funding and action. In a world where financial
resources are increasingly constrained, this report shows where the best
investments can be made and where millions of lives can be saved.”

 


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