Global Week for Action on NCDs calls for greater investment
With over 40 million deaths each year from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), more than three-quarters of them occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), NCDs are taking an immense toll on the world. They damage the global economy, perpetuate poverty and threaten health security. The five leading NCDs alone are estimated to cost an average of more than US$2 trillion globally every year.
Despite the clear need for urgency, NCD action and investment often remain afterthoughts, overshadowed by infectious diseases and neglected within health services. For the past two decades, financing for NCDs has stagnated at a meagre 1-2% of development assistance for health, hugely hindering global progress in tackling them.
Turning the tide on NCD investment
Encouraging shifts are starting to emerge, with global financial investment in NCDs increasing, albeit not at a level or pace that is clearly needed to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4 of reducing the number of premature NCD deaths by a third by 2030. In 2019, Norway became the first country in the world to launch an international development strategy specifically to combat NCDs in low-income countries, contributing an investment of US$21.9 million to support the strategy.
In part, the COVID-19 pandemic also helped trigger an increased flow of international funding for NCD prevention, treatment and care, having exposed the intertwined nature of NCDs and the world’s preparedness to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. In 2020, Access Accelerated and the World Bank jointly funded seven new projects, working closely with 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to address the double burden of NCDs and COVID-19.
In the six years of partnership with the World Bank, Access Accelerated has invested a total of US$24.5 million to support developing country governments to address the NCD burden. This investment has led to an additional US$355 million investment from the World Bank, helping to significantly grow its NCD portfolio to US$2.1 billion in 33 countries.
Addressing NCDs is crucial to achieving UHC
Action and investment in NCDs are fundamental to resilience, security, equity and economic stability and to ensuring Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Overall, NCDs will cost LMICs an estimated US$21 trillion over the next three decades, posing a significant threat to the achievement of SDG target 3.8—UHC for all, a cornerstone of the SDGs.
Accelerating progress in NCD prevention, treatment and care is a critical component to building effective UHC systems. At the same time, access to NCD services requires UHC. As a consequence, efforts toward achieving UHC must consider NCDs and vice versa. Without doing so, the world is unlikely to achieve the SDGs of world progress, peace and prosperity.
“We are eight years away from the SDGs,” says Katie Dain, CEO of NCD Alliance, a partner of Access Accelerated. “To translate these global targets, including a one-third reduction in NCD deaths, into longer, healthier lives for people everywhere requires increased investment in NCD prevention and care as part of delivering UHC and leaving no one behind.”
Striving for Health for All
Achieving Universal Health Coverage, or “Health for All”, ensures that all individuals can access the health services they need without financial hardship. Yet, huge expenses due to out-of-pocket payments for NCD treatment are pushing an estimated 100 million people worldwide into extreme poverty every year.
Over 60% of people living with NCDs have experienced catastrophic health expenditure. NCDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty: the high cost of NCD-related healthcare and the reduced productivity of patients leads to a loss of household income, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and limiting social and economic development.
National investment is critical
Breaking this devastating cycle requires investment, particularly at a national level. A 2022 study demonstrated that investing US$18 billion more every year from 2023 to 2030 would avert 39 million deaths in LMICs, yielding an economic benefit of US$2.7 trillion. If Ministries of Health contribute just 20% of their budgets, they would collectively reach this sum.
Although progress is slowly being made, it is clear that many countries still need to step up NCD financing to ensure that NCDs are fully covered under UHC. Smart investment in NCDs is within the reach of every country.
“The biggest impact will be through government investment,” says Martin Bernhardt, Director of Access Accelerated. “It is critical that the expansion and financing of NCD services through UHC is driven by strong country leadership, national investment and concerted, collaborative action across all sectors.”
Access Accelerated is setting an example for how industry-led action can work across sectors to achieve collective positive impact. Through its support of targeted, catalytic investments, the initiative is helping to accelerate both public and private investments that align with country and global UHC and NCD priorities.