On 12 January 2022, the UK Working Group on Non-communicable Diseases launched a report on Non-communicable Diseases and UK Aid in the Era of COVID-19, commissioned from two consultants with lived experience of NCDs – Dr. Zipporah Ali and Dr. Helena Davies.
This report advocates for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and health systems strengthening (HSS) to be at the heart of future UK overseas development assistance (ODA) for health, as the world builds back from COVID-19.
NCDs – chief among them cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung disease – account for 70% of premature deaths worldwide, with mental-health conditions adding significantly to this burden of ill health. There is a major imbalance between the huge proportion of the disease burden accounted for by NCDs, in lower-income countries and the tiny proportion of aid allocated to NCDs: not even 2% of development assistance for health globally is dedicated to NCDs.
Although the UK is recognised for its thought-leadership in international development and is the third-largest donor in global health, there still remains a big gap in health systems in many of the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) supported by UK ODA. The recent cuts in UK ODA could prove to be catastrophic for countries with weak health systems that are struggling with the increasing burden of NCDs, leading to excess premature deaths and disability, as indicated in this report.
‘It is completely unacceptable that half the world still lacks coverage for the most essential health services. And it is unnecessary. A solution exists: universal health coverage allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.’ – Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
Collaboration between the UK Working Group on NCDs and its members, civil society organisations, the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), and PLWNCDs to address the issues highlighted in the report has the potential to strengthen the UK’s capacity to address the needs of NCDs as part of building back better.
The impact of NCDs is growing rapidly, affecting people of all ages and income levels in all regions of the world. The problem is expanding most in LMICs, where more than three-quarters (32 million) of all NCD deaths occur.
A report by the WHO and World Bank has shown that, globally, financial protection against out-of-pocket expenditure decreased continuously between 2000 and 2015, and that this expenditure pushed 89.7 million people (1.2% of the global population) into extreme poverty in 2015 alone. The survey and interviews for this report confirmed this financial strain placed on PLWNCDs. Out-of-pocket expenditure is the major source of funding of NCD care for individuals in LMICs, and there is a consequent high risk of catastrophic : Report survey (November/December 2021) – NCD Alliance East Africa (Rwanda)
NCDs are a development issue that requires a multisector and multilateral approach to address them. The pandemic has demonstrated the need for strong and resilient health systems that can cope with future emerging pandemics while continuing to provide essential health services and this will require increased funding towards HSS and universal health coverage (UHC). Please find the report here.