•The five leading NCDs alone are estimated to cost countries an average of more than US$2 trillion annually.
•Between 2011 and 2025 developing countries alone will lose US$7 trillion — the combined GDP of France, Spain and Germany.
The annual Global Week for Action on NCDs is a week-long event organized by the NCD Alliance and its affiliates around the globe engaging in activities that seeks to ensure Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) prevention and management get the attention and action they deserve, everywhere, for everyone.
It is observed every first week of September and this year it runs from the 5th -11th of September. This year’s activities are hinged on the theme ‘Invest to protect: Invest in NCDs today to save lives and money tomorrow.’
This year is all about prioritizing the urgent need for increased NCD financing to prevent and treat NCDs and build resilient health systems that leave no one behind.
Why is investing in NCDs urgent? NCDs drain the global economy, perpetuate poverty and threaten health security. Also known as chronic diseases, NCDs cost the world’s countries 3.5-5.9% of their annual gross domestic product.
The five leading NCDs alone are estimated to cost countries an average of more than US$2 trillion annually. Between 2011 and 2025 developing countries alone will lose US$7 trillion — the combined GDP of France, Spain and Germany.
Non communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for 50% of hospital admission, 55% of hospital deaths and 39% of total deaths in Kenya (Stepwise Survey, 2014). Currently, little attention has been put by both county and national government to prevent and control NCDs. There are no funds set aside for NCDs in national and county budgets.
Yet the Kenya National NCD control strategic plan for 2021-2025 estimates the cost of NCD control in that period to be in the region of Kshs. 377 Billion. This amount will not be realized without a deliberate effort to set aside fund for NCDs at all levels of government. While this amount may seem daunting, the cost of inaction has more dire consequences for the patients, their families, the health system and ultimately the national economy.
NCDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty, and huge expenses due to out-of-pocket payments for NCD treatment push millions of people worldwide into extreme poverty every year. Roughly 60-90% of COVID-19 deaths have been of people living with one or more chronic condition, like obesity, heart or kidney disease, or cardiovascular diseases. NCD action and investment must no longer be seen as an afterthought to infectious diseases and neglected within health services, but as fundamental to resilience, security, equity, and economic stability.
According to the NCD Alliance CEO Katie Dain, 41 million people die every year worldwide due to an NCD, and annual deaths from NCDs are projected to rise to 52 million by 2030. To better understand, in 2020 annual deaths from tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS reached 1.5 million, 627,000, and 680,000 respectively. Unless countries follow through on commitments to reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases, the future of global health will be dominated by these chronic conditions.
By investing in cost-effective actions now, countries can change this trajectory of disease and disability to one of healthy and prosperous populations. For every dollar invested in NCD control, it is estimated that there is a return on investment of $7 in the form of lives, livelihoods and money saved. This return will be most realizable if the bulk of this investment is in primary healthcare which affords us the best opportunity to screen, detect and control NCDs before they get complicated and expensive to treat.
The world now has a truly global agenda for prevention and control of NCDs, with shared responsibilities for all countries based on concrete targets. But seeing these targets translate into longer healthier lives for people everywhere requires increased investment in NCD prevention and care, as part of delivering UHC and leaving no one behind.
Investing in NCD prevention will save money and lives, and is the only way to achieve the SDG target 3.4. which targets by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being. Scaling up and accelerating action on NCDs should be seen as the fulfilment of a promise by governments, and a moral imperative rather than a choice. It is time to follow through on commitments made towards healthier populations.
Kenya is a signatory to many of these commitments, and there has been commendable effort to fulfil some of them. President Uhuru Kenyatta has been keen on UHC, making it one of his four key development agendas, culminating in a national roll out in February this year. Towards this, the government did invest Kshs. 6 Billion to enable 1 million indigent households join NHIF and by extension gain access to health services.
While this is a commendable start, there is need for more investment to build a more robust health system that is accessible to all and is able to attend to the health needs of the population. Let us invest in Health today to save lives and money tomorrow.
John Gikonyo is the President of the Renal Patients Society of Kenya and the Convener of the Caucus of People Living with NCDs (PLWNCDs) at NCD Alliance of Kenya.