Emergent chronic health conditions pose systemic problems to society, economies, and individuals. More than 1.4 billion people in the world have high blood pressure, almost 800,000 people die from suicide globally, almost a half-billion have diabetes, and 40% of adults in the world are overweight or obese. There are isolated positive signs that NCDs are being dealt with: the probability of dying prematurely from a major NCD has declined 17% globally since 2000 and an awareness of NCD risks and costs has soared. But the gains are overwhelmed by population growth, misaligned public policies, commercial determinants of health, and institutional inertia.
Internationally, more than 70% of global health deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which have been estimated to impose a $47 trillion burden on developing country GDP by 2030. For these reasons, NCDs present an overwhelming and widespread threat to populations globally.
Like pandemics, NCDs are usually preventable. Like climate change, NCDs require a multi-sectoral response. Like both, NCDs are largely a human-caused problem.
It is clear that without dramatic new intervention the Sustainable Development Goal to reduce premature NCD mortality by one-third by 2030 will fail. Worse yet, countries will incur huge economic costs trying to get there – for too little gain.
This lecture by our own Dr. Rachel Nugent argues that NCDs are a solvable problem and describes plausible scenarios for reversing NCD burden and achieving health and economic gains. Achieving this change requires more than disease prevention and treatment. It will require all sectors of society to create new ways to sustain and produce health and – in parallel – eliminate the counter-productive and health-damaging environment that surrounds us. It should be feasible for every country in the world to conquer NCDs in an ethical, sustainable and affordable manner.