There are four big categories of non-communicable disease, or NCDs and they the main cause of death for 6 in every 10 people on the planet. The four NCD groups areÂ cardiovascular (heart) disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes. They are the main cause of death in almost 8 out of every 10 fatalities in the second and third world.
These are the less wealthy and poverty-stricken nations of the World. If you havenâ€™t got much money you are more likely to die young and because of an NCD. But here is the catch, you need money, in order to avoid NCDs. Â As part of World Cancer Day, Johns Hopkins Universityâ€™s Institute for Applied Economics, GlobalÂ HealthÂ and the Study of Business Enterprise published a number of articles, â€˜Addressing the Gaps in Global Policy and Research for NCDsâ€™.
Food for Thought
The authors of these articles give food for thought to the elite leaders of the first world in five important action areas for fighting NCDs. These action points are: strengthening supply chains, accelerating regulatory convergence, applying HIV/AIDS learning have to improve access to interventions, restructuring primary care, and promoting multi-sectoral action. All of which takes lots of money.
The research was sponsored by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) in the build-up to the WorldÂ HealthÂ Organisation forum for a Global Action Plan for NCDs at the WorldÂ HealthÂ Assembly later this year.
Meanwhile 36 million of the 56 million deaths in 2008 were down to NCDs and 29 million of them were in the poorer countries. Would the time of all these experts not be better spent in devising a system for redistributing the Worldâ€™s resources on a more equitable basis, and thus get at the most basic cause of all this death?
[box type=”note”]Cardiovascular disease accounted for nearly half, 17 million of the â€˜08 death toll. Cancers of all kinds took almost 8 million people while respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronically obstructed airways, killed just over 4 million. Diabetes was a culprit in just 1.3 million deaths. [/box]
Risk Factors for NCDs
The risk factors for all the NCDs in all four categories are all more prevalent among the poor and middle-income peoples of the World. Tobacco use is a big risk factor. Less well-educated and the uneducated are easily persuaded by the sophisticated and rich marketing efforts of â€˜big tobaccoâ€™. With the decline in smoking numbers in the well-heeled, well-educated, western world, the developing countries are the prime target markets for money harvesting by the multinational cigarette companies.
Alcohol abuse is another risk factor for NCD and the story is the same, for poor education and a lack of affluence is a social recipe for this well-spring of ill-health. Of course the less money people have the worse their diet. Higher thanÂ healthyÂ levels of blood glucose, unhealthy cholesterol (if you can afford the blood tests) levels, and a shortage of fruit and vegetables from an already unbalanced diet, puts children especially, on a certain path towards an early NCD death.
Any number of WHO talking shops will make only a marginal difference to NCD. Only by replacing the profit motive with the equity motive can the Worldâ€™s political institutions break out of this Catch 22.