26 September 2011

Africa: New Financing Needed for Non-Communicable Diseases

Two new reports have revealed the extent to which non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are affecting Africa, in particular, estimating economic losses of nearly U$500-billion a year.

The reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Economic Forum (WEF) were launched the day before the UN High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on NCDs in New York last week and include a global analysis of the economic impact of NCDs, by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Harvard School of Public Health.

An analysis of the costs of scaling up a core intervention package to prevent and treat NCDs in low- and middle-income countries by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that it will cost less than $12 billion a year

The NCD Alliance, a network of more than 2 000 non-government organizations tackling non-communicable diseases welcomed the new studies aimed at helping decision makers in low- and middle-income countries to reduce the growing burden of NCDs.

"What these studies show us is that the most basic package of prevention and control measures is affordable, even for poor countries," said Ann Keeling, CEO of the NCD Alliance. "But the cost of not tackling these growing killers is inestimably higher than the cost of acting now."

The WHO report aims to help government officials calculate what resources they need to run basic essential programmes. However, the NCD Alliance noted the report included measures ignored in the draft Political Declaration due to be adopted at the UNHLM on NCDs, such as measures to regulate the price, availability and marketing of alcohol.

The NCD Alliance is also campaigning for increases in tobacco tax to save lives and provide governments with funds that can be invested in health.

"Governments today raise more than $100 million a year from tobacco taxes" said Dr Nils Billo, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. "A mere 2 per cent increase in current tobacco taxes would raise $2 billion or more."

The reports also found that a 10 per cent reduction in deaths from ischaemic heart disease and stroke would reduce economic losses in low- and middle- income countries by $25 billion a year - about three times the cost of scaling up core interventions for cardiovascular disease which are put at $8 billion a year.

Women suffer the economic hardships of cancer care, for example, far more acutely than their male counterparts, especially in poor regions. More than half of the of the 500 000 women who develop cervical cancer annually will die from the disease. 85% of these deaths will occur in women in the developing world. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women globally and accounts for 13% of all female cancers.

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