The Lancet Taskforce on NCDs and Economics

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, costing governments and economies billions in hospital stays, lost productivity and ultimately loss of life. Their economic repercussions are growing at an alarming rate among low and middle income countries (LMICs). Averting NCDs could save 7 million lives by 2030 by investing just $0.84 per person, per year into WHO “best buys”, thus returning its costs many times over while creating lasting social and economic benefits for society as a whole.

NCDs not only pose direct costs associated with health care but also incur indirect expenses that are often overlooked, including social and emotional distress, time missed from work/study/life and decreased quality of life. Furthermore, these diseases have economic ramifications: for instance poor nutrition contributes to malnutrition as well as cognitive disorders while smoking/alcohol use/inactivity/financial stress can promote unhealthy behaviors which contribute to both obesity and NCDs.

Though high-income countries currently bear most of the financial impact associated with NCDs, developing nations are expected to shoulder an increasingly greater share as their populations and economies expand. Addressing NCDs therefore remains an integral component of global development efforts; and The Lancet Taskforce on NCDs and Economics supports reaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 3.4 which commits to cutting premature mortality due to NCDs by one-third by 2030.

This report, created by the HSPH and its partners – UN agencies, private sector companies and other stakeholders – underscores the need for comprehensive multisectoral approaches that draw on sound economic evidence and address key determinants of NCDs such as poverty, unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices, inadequate housing and sanitation facilities and water services; improved delivery of health and social services and reduced financial barriers to care – to maximize accountability for action.

However, they should know better. I think there should be an opportunity for all parties involved. Effective NCD prevention requires a combination of interventions based on the economic value of health, as well as strong commitment from all sectors of society, including ministries of health, education, agriculture, environment, finance industry excise tax tax civil supplies home urban rural development and panchayat raj. All actors – especially business leaders – should understand the economic toll of NCDs and their ability to restrict economic growth.

This understanding is crucial to realizing all benefits from the Sustainable Development Goals and making progress toward our shared goal of healthy lives for all. The authors wish to extend their sincerest appreciation and thanks to two reviewers for providing insightful comments that helped improve this paper. Furthermore, no competing interests exist between any of them and this publication. This article forms part of a series published by HSPH for UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network on the Economics of NCDs that brings together global experts, policymakers, students and researchers for an in-depth investigation of global health issues’ economics.

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