Currently, NCDs in low- and middle-income countries are plunging families into poverty, damaging productivity, threatening economic growth and national economies, further straining health budgets and health systems, and putting our very substantial global health investments at risk. Barring intervention, this problem will only increase in the future. Today’s 8.2 million annual cancer deaths worldwide are projected to increase to 13.1 million in 2030, with comparable increases in cardiovascular disease, unipolar depressive disorders, and other NCDs. With 16 million NCD-related deaths occurring before the age of 70 and more than 82% of these premature deaths occurring in developing countries, NCD-related deaths outnumber those caused by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in U.S.-priority countries.
Children face unique challenges and need tailored solutions for the prevention, management, and treatment of NCDs. Diseases and conditions acquired during childhood can affect people throughout their lives. Half of adult NCDs begin in childhood, and most of the behaviors that underlie NCDs start during adolescence. Children in low- and middle-income countries who suffer from NCDs often die prematurely because of late diagnosis or lack of access to adequate treatment, or they suffer long-term disabilities from chronic conditions that are not adequately managed.
More than 25% of maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria, and obesity. For women living with NCDs, particularly type 1 diabetes or rheumatic heart disease, preconception planning can help to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Early detection and management of gestational diabetes mellitus, for instance, could help to reduce stillbirths by up to 45% and reduce the risk of later cardio-metabolic disease for both the mother and child. Postnatal follow-up provides additional screening opportunities.
NCDs affect all countries, but developing countries are affected disproportionally. This population has increased exposure to certain risk factors (for example, indoor air pollution) along with insufficient resources to treat the resulting health outcomes. Communicable diseases and NCDs coexist and in many cases influence each other’s risk and/or disease progression.
These diseases are sapping the economic strength and social capital of societies that are major U.S. partners for trade and development. The Word Economic Forum continues to rank NCDs as one of the greatest risks to global well-being, similar to fiscal crises. Projections of future economic losses over the coming 15 years resulting from NCDs reach $47 trillion. Much of this hampered economic growth is expected in low- and middle-income countries, further threatening education outcomes and workforce productivity, and undermining progress toward global poverty eradication, including existing and future development goals.