As policy-makers search for ways to reduce poverty and income inequality, and to achieve sustainable income growth they are being encouraged to focus on an emerging challenge to health, well-being and development: non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
After all, 63% of all deaths worldwide currently stem from NCDs – chiefly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. These deaths are distributed widely among the world’s population – from high income to low-income countries and from young to old (about one-quarter of all NCD deaths occur below the age of 60, amounting to approximately 9 million deaths per year). NCDs have a large impact, undercutting productivity and boosting healthcare outlays. Moreover, the number of people affected by NCDs is expected to rise substantially in the coming decades, reflecting an ageing and increasing global population.
With this in mind, the United Nations is holding its first High-Level Meeting on NCDs on 19-20 September 2011 – this is only the second time that a high-level UN meeting is being dedicated to a health topic (the first time being on HIV/AIDS in 2001). Over the years, much work has been done estimating the human toll of NCDs, but work on estimating the economic toll is far less advanced.
In this report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Harvard School of Public Health try to inform and stimulate further debate by developing new estimates of the global economic burden of NCDs in 2010, and projecting the size of the burden through 2030. Three distinct approaches are used to compute the economic burden: (1) the standard cost of illness method; (2) macroeconomic simulation and (3) the value of a statistical life. This report includes not only the four major NCDs (the focus of the UN meeting), but also mental illness, which is a major contributor to the burden of disease worldwide. This evaluation takes place in the context of enormous global health spending, serious concerns about already strained public finances and worries about lacklustre economic growth. The report also tries to capture the thinking of the business community about the impact of NCDs on their enterprises