In its September 23, 2010, issue, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article titled “Global Non-communicable Diseases – Where Worlds Meet,” in which authors from Emory University discuss the growing impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries, further disproving the myth that diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are problems only of wealthy nations.
The NEJM perspective piece, of which Dr. KM Venkat Narayan (a member of Arogya World’s Scientific Steering Committee) is the first author, highlights a recent report from the World Health Organization, which identified six risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases as the leading global risk factors for death. The risk factors – high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose levels, physical inactivity, overweight or obesity, and high cholesterol levels, pervade countries of all income levels.
No longer “diseases of affluence,” they say, the fact that low-, middle- and high- income countries share this common set of challenges affords them a unique opportunity to work together to prevent and control NCDs.
Interestingly, the article notes that globalization may be responsible for more people across more borders suffering from chronic diseases, and that our growing global interdependence may also be the source of real, effective solutions if we work together in effective partnerships. “We have a great opportunity: global non-communicable diseases can unite high-, middle-, and low-income countries in a common purpose, given their common causation, increasingly similar mortality rates and economic burdens worldwide, and generalizable preventive and curative solutions. The first challenge, however, will be to energize policymakers to recognize that opportunity.”
Finding a solution to the crisis of NCDs, the article says, requires “a shifting of health care systems from curative models suited to acute illnesses to more integrated primary care systems with considerable patient empowerment; and appropriate restructuring of financial and insurance systems.”
“Serious global commitment and cooperation are needed to tackle NCDs,” said Dr. Narayan. “Without that, global economic development and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, especially those for under-nutrition and infectious disease control, are also in threat. These are all inter-linked challenges and should not be seen in isolation.”