Thursday, October 27, 2011

Low-cost solutions for NCDs

The good news is that if the UN special summit on 19-20 September 2011 discussed the challenge of global upsurge in the incidence of NCDs, the World Health Organization (WHO) beforehand had worked out low-cost prevention and control strategies for adoption by the low and middle income countries. 

NCDs are a major killer worldwide; 80% of deaths occur in low and middle income countries. The impact of NCDS is tremendous, not only in morbidity and mortality terms but also in socioeconomic terms. The cost of delayed action against NCDs is severe and can even increase over time. NCDs are leading threat to global economic growth and development.

Over the next 15 years, NCDs will cost low and middle income countries more than US $ 7 trillion, according to Jean Pierre Rosso, Chairman, World Economic Forum (WEF), based on a joint study of WEF and Harvard School of Public Health.

When large workforce is affected by NCDs and fall sick and dies from those diseases in their productive years, national economies will lose millions of dollars in output, and millions of families are pushed into poverty.

The WHO study set out to identify low-cost interventions that could prevent NCDs and their effect. The criteria were availability of strong evidence that such a strategy prevented disease and saved life. The strategies were for adoption separately at Population level and Individuals focused.

The strategies for implementation at population level include: Excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, smoke-free indoor  and public places, health information and warnings, campaigns to reduce salt content, replacement of trans fats by polyunsaturated fats, public awareness programme, physical activity.

The individual level strategy include: screening, counseling, drug therapy in case of high risk cardiovascular disease, screening for cervical cancer, hepatitis B immunization to prevent liver cancer.
Several countries which had adopted such measures at population and individual levels against CVS disease, on monitoring by WHO over a period of ten years have found marked reduction in risks, disease incidence and deaths.

Total cost of adopting these strategies in all low and middle income countries is estimated to be  US$ 11.4 billion per year. Implementation per person per year is low, US$1.20. These strategies are easy measures, and can be easily adopted by low and middle income countries.

This report is to be noticed by all concerned, and the targeted countries serious to tackle the onslaught of NCDs must take immediate steps to implement these, and other strategies more specific to respective countries.

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