Over the last 2 decades, we’ve made significant progress in the battle against infectious (or “communicable”) diseases. In 1990, tuberculosis was ranked the 7th leading cause of death on the global burden of disease scale, which now rates it as the 11th; diarrheal diseases were ranked number 3, and are now ranked number 5.
But what about other illnesses that fall outside of the category of infectious/communicable diseases, which affect many people’s lives?
Non-communicable diseases, or NCDs (often known as “chronic” diseases, mostly classified as cardiorespiratory disease, diabetes, COPD, and cancer), are known health issues in high-income countries like Canada.
Although these diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in high-income countries, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that more needs to be done to combat NCDs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
For instance, the World Health Organization recently declared that NCDs are one of the top 10 threats to Global Health in 2019, and that every year across the globe 15 million people die from NCDs with over 85% of these deaths occurring in LMICs. It is evident that there’s a drastic geographical inequity in NCD prevention and treatment.
What’s more, for some NCDs such as childhood cancer, LMICs have less than 5% of the global resources and account for only 6.2% of worldwide cancer spending.(1) This results in survival rates of 5-40% in LMICs, compared to 80% in high-income countries. These results are primarily a result of lack of diagnostic resources, high costs of treatment, and lack of specialized cancer care.(2)
Global Health agencies and stakeholders across the world have begun to recognize the inequities faced by people with NCDs in LMICs. Goal 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals states that “By 2030, [we need to] reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.” The recognition of this by the SDGs is of paramount importance, as it influences the priorities of organizations around the world.
The shift in priorities to NCDs has also been illustrated in the most recent Global Burden of Disease paper. It indicates that Ischemic heart disease and stroke are now the top and 3rd-highest ranked leading cause of death across the world, with a predicted increase in leading causes of death by NCDs in 2040.
NCDs were also recently given attention on the world’s stage on September 27th, 2018 at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly when the UN held a review of the advancement the prevention and control of NCDs. In addition to this summit, the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs was established as part of the Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020 which includes 9 global targets to address the increased burden of NCDs across the world to encourage multinational stakeholder coordination across all sectors through the WHO Knowledge Action Portal.
There are clearly many powerful and effective initiatives being organized by influential stakeholders and organizations around the world, but more still needs to be done within individualized countries to reduce these rising rates of deaths from NCDs, especially in LMICs.
NCDs result from multiple factors including behavioural, environmental and genetic making their solutions often complicated and resource intensive. High NCD rates are often linked to areas of extreme poverty and low socioeconomic status due to low amount of resources. Therefore, NCD solutions must be collaborative across all sectors including health, finance, education and transportation to reduce risk and exposure and increase prevention and management.
For these reasons, we need to have qualified Global Health workers who are committed to investing their time and efforts into NCD prevention and care.
Check out the WHO Knowledge Action Portal (KAP) – a first-of-its-kind online community driven platform created by the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. It enables users to gain a further understanding about NCD prevention and control, and increase interaction and engagement across sectors.
ThriveHire also has many partners involved in NCD prevention and treatment! See below for details:
HealthBridge Foundation of Canada is an international, non-profit, NGO which works to improve the health of vulnerable populations, including those at risk of malnutrition, infectious disease and emerging epidemics, such non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Partners in Health Canada is a non-profit organization that builds local capacity and works with impoverished communities to deliver high quality health care, train service providers, advance research and advocate for global policy change. As part of the broader PIH programs to address NCDs, PIH Canada is committed to supporting and advancing cancer care in the countries where they work.
Dignitas International (DI) is a medical and research organization dedicated to improving health care for people facing a high burden of disease and unequal access to services and researches ways to improve health care delivery, to make it more effective and accessible. One of the five focus areas of DI is non-infectious diseases.
(1) Rodriguez-Galindo et al., 2015(2) Bhakta et al., 2012