This post was originally published on November 3, 2014, and appears in full on the Devex website.
By Nalini Saligram
Non-communicable diseases — heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung diseases, most notably — have grown to alarming proportions on our watch. These diseases are prematurely killing two out of three people today in all countries, rich and poor, with 80 percent of deaths being in lower-income countries.
Chronic diseases represent the defining global health challenge of our generation.
In India, people now get diabetes in their thirties and forties — 10 years earlier, on average, than people in Western countries. In a country where half a billion people are below 25 years of age, this makes the public health burden huge over the next few decades. NCDs have a devastating economic impact. At Arogya World, we recently conducted a survey of 10,000 women from 10 different countries, which showed that 25 percent estimate they spend a quarter of their household income on NCD treatment and care. In fact, 7 percent of the women believe they spend as much as half.
Think about it: Half of a family’s income spent on NCDs. That is quite simply unacceptable.
It is our generation’s responsibility to fix NCDs — to think, debate, challenge and goad. Or, as Sir George Alleyne, the acknowledged leader of the NCD movement, says, “agitate.” Governments and civil society, employers and employees, thought leaders and consumers must change policy and culture and behavior. Multi-sectoral approaches are needed for us to win.