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Non-Communicable Diseases: The Other Pandemic

While the global focus over the past two years has been on COVID-19, another pandemic has been flourishing under the radar: non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally.

Cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes are the most common NCDs and account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths. These conditions are often associated with older age groups, but more than 15 million of all deaths attributed to NCDs occur between the ages of 30 and 69 years.

While everyone is susceptible to NCDs, 77% of all deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. This is because poverty and NCDs go hand-in-hand. Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people are at greater risk of being exposed to harmful products like tobacco, or unhealthy dietary practices, all of which lead to the development of NCDs. Coupled with limited access to healthcare and resources, it’s no wonder lower-income people get sicker and die sooner.

In low-resource settings, healthcare costs for NCDs quickly drain household resources. The exorbitant costs of NCDs, including treatment, which is often lengthy and expensive, combined with the loss of income, force millions of people into poverty annually and stifle development. In fact, the World Health Organization recently published its Model Lists of Essential Medicines and Essential Medicines for Children, prioritizing access to diabetes and cancer treatments.

With the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCDs become a significant strain on vulnerable communities and overstretched health systems in the developing world.

NCDs and Mental Health

The four most common chronic NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases) are also frequently linked with depression, a leading cause of disability worldwide with approximately 280 million people in the world suffering from the illness.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and understanding the link between NCDs and mental health is crucial.

The same factors that drive increased risk of NCDs – such as tobacco and alcohol use, as well as unhealthy diets – also often lead to the development of mental disorders. Additionally, reduced quality of life from living with NCDs, such as lack of access to treatment and income loss, also contribute to stressors that trigger mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

This is especially devastating in developing countries, where 75% of people living with mental illness go untreated due to lack of awareness and resources around mental illnesses, and those who suffer often do so in silence for fear of stigma.

HPIC’s Non-communicable Diseases program is bringing awareness, diagnosis and treatment for NCDs to vulnerable communities, giving hope for improved mental wellbeing as a result.

When you donate to our General Fund, you are supporting our NCD program and improving quality of life for thousands of vulnerable people suffering from NCDs.

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