It took a global pandemic for governments around the world to realise the importance of investing in health care. However, a new study indicates that a lot still needs to be done. According to a Lancet Commission report, for the first time, non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs) have caused more deaths and disability among the world’s poorest billion people. NCDs, a diverse set of diseases that causes premature mortality, results in seven out of every 10 deaths globally. Another key finding is that people with NCDs show increased susceptibility to severe Covid-19 infection, which can lead to death. While countries, especially India, tackle Covid-19 and its economic fallout, they must also begin to direct resources towards other health challenges.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks to lower death rates related to four NCDs by 2030: Cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. The report highlights the need for governments to show greater commitment. India is one of the 16 countries that has established national NCDI poverty commissions, groups and consortia, indicating its resolve.
To reduce death rates, however, requires social, environmental, behavioural, nutritional, and clinical determinants related to NCDs. This includes creating awareness about the causes of NCDs, including alcohol consumption and tobacco usage, among others. These interventions coupled with equitable and effective health care systems are imperative. Covid-19 has exacerbated NCD burdens, but it can be a wake-up call, especially if the government integrates NCDs into the Covid-19 response. This will help reduce the death rate further, and also assist in reaching SDGs.