RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study published in the BMJ Global Health finds that six interventions for non-communicable disease (NCD) risk reduction could help avoid 21 million premature deaths from NCDs among today’s young age and adolescent children (ages 10 to 19 years) and generate about $400 billion in cumulative economic benefits to societies worldwide.
RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute, teamed with collaborators to conduct a novel economic analysis to measure the Return-On-Investment (ROI) for reducing NCD risks in adolescents using evidence-based interventions. The research was commissioned by biopharmaceuticals company, AstraZeneca’s Youth Health Programme in partnership with Plan International UK, a children’s charity. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of human death and illness worldwide and reducing NCD risks in youth allows millions of people to live longer lives.
“This study underscores how potential interventions, such as sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, could lead to a significant reduction of risk of later mortality from non-communicable diseases, for example, diabetes and heart disease,” stated Rachel Nugent, RTI vice president for Global NCDs and senior author on the BMJ Global Health paper. “In addition, countries around the world will save millions of dollars by avoiding costs to manage the productivity and well-being of their citizens.”
About 40 million people around the world die from NCDs each year, including health and respiratory ailments, diabetes, and cancer, among other diseases. Two-thirds of premature NCD deaths among adults can be traced back to behaviors initiated during young age and adolescence.
“NCDs have been a difficult problem for governments to tackle due to their complexity. Keeping their young population healthy means productivity and well-being gains in the future,” explained Nugent.
RTI’s Global NCD Initiative has deep experience conducting economic analysis about NCDs. The recommendations from this work often guide governments to implement needed policy interventions to reduce health risks and control tobacco. RTI is working in more than two dozen countries to help them control NCDs.
“There is great opportunity to improve the health of young people tomorrow if we can focus our attention on them today. We hope that the evidence in this study will lead to increased investment in, and focus on, young people as countries develop programs and policies to fight NCDs,” said Helen Seibel, lead for Global Community Investment at AstraZeneca.
The study was funded by AstraZeneca as part of the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme, a global community investment initiative co-founded by Plan International UK. It aims to reduce the uptake of unhealthy behaviors in young people to improve their health outcomes as adults and help address the growing burden of NCDs on health systems.
The authors acknowledge the support of Plan International UK, who commissioned this work through a charitable grant made by the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme (YHP).