Low and middle-income countries could save up to Sh35.5 trillion by 2030 by focusing on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the World Health Organisation has said.
This translates to saving 1,700 lives per day or 628,586 lives per year, and 8.2 million lives by 2030.
In a new report titled Saving Lives, Spending Less: A Strategic Response to Non-Communicable Diseases, the WHO spelt out the health and economic benefits of implementing the most cost-effective and feasible interventions to prevent and control NCDs.
The global health organisation identified a set of measures labelled “WHO Best Buys” which are considered affordable, cost-effective and evidence-based.
These measures will deliver the greatest health impact in reducing illness, disability and premature death from NCDs if successfully implemented in low- and lower-middle-income countries.
They cover the six policy areas of tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, management of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and prevention and management of cancer.
WHO estimates that investing Sh100 in tobacco control will yield a return of Sh700 per person.
The same amount will yield a return of Sh1,282 from reducing high-fat foods, Sh913 from reduction of alcohol consumption and Sh280 from promoting exercise or reducing physical inactivity. Sh100 invested in controlling or managing diabetes and cardiovascular disease will result in a Sh329 return, while the same amount invested in cancer prevention, diagnosis and management will yield a Sh274 return per person.
“These policies are stronger and more beneficial when used together.
For example, campaigns that both promote physical activity and ensure the availability of low salt foods are more likely to reduce people’s long-term risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” the WHO observed.
Investing in the control of NCDs will result in a healthier population and more productive workforce, reduced healthcare expenditure including less financial risk due to treatment of disease, increased life expectancy and increased earning capacity.
Among other proposals suggested in the report is the vaccination of girls aged nine to 13 years against human papillomavirus and prevention of cervical cancer by screening women aged 30 to 49 years and offering timely treatment for pre-cancerous cervix lesions or wounds.
While launching the report, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom noted that NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and mental disorders, are the leading causes of death worldwide and carry a huge cost that extends beyond health, undermining workforce productivity and economic prosperity.
He added that the most at-risk and vulnerable were also the least likely to have access to treatment.
“For the first time the financing needs for tackling NCDs in low- and lower-middle-income countries have been calculated and translated into health and economic returns.
“If all countries put in place the most cost-effective interventions, by 2030 they will not only save millions of lives, but also see a return of Sh700 per person for every dollar invested,” he said.
NCD ambassador Michael Bloomberg noted that the diseases kill nearly 41 million people mostly under the age of 70 each year, yet only one per cent of global health funding is dedicated to preventing and treating them in low and middle-income countries, where they account for nearly 80 per cent of deaths.