New Delhi: Non communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental illness will cost India $4.58 trillion between 2012 and 2030, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health.
“Ill health affects economic growth in several ways including early retirement, negative expectations regarding employment and reduced productivity. The disease burden also leads to increase of expenditure for health system, individuals and households,” said the report, titled Economics of Non-Communicable Diseases in India.Cardiovascular diseases ($2.17 trillion) and mental health ($1.03 trillion) are the major contributors to the economic impact of NCDs.
Prevalent NCDs also include chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes. Diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in India. In 2012, more than 63 million people in the country were living with type 2 diabetes.
“NCDs are big contributors to the economic burden as cardiovascular diseases occur at a young age leading to loss in productivity, absenteeism and death, which means loss of working years,” said Prabhakaran Dorairaj, vice-president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)—a public private partnership that works in the area of policy development in public health—and director of Centre for Non Communicable Diseases at PHFI.
An estimated 60% of all deaths in India are due to NCDs, according to the World Health Organization.
NCDs represent the main cause of mortality and morbidity among older people in both developing and developed countries, particularly in India, according to Health of the elderly in India—Challenges of Access and Affordability report published in 2012.
NCDs are caused by factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity and poor diet. Among these factors, tobacco use is the most prevalent in people suffering from NCDs. Around 60% of men and over 10% of women aged between 15 years and 49 years use some tobacco in some form, according to the National Family Health Survey by the International Institute of Population Studies (2007).
“There have been many regulatory efforts to deal with the challenge of NCDs. The most prominent among them is the United Nation’s goal to avoid 40% of premature deaths under the age of 70 caused by NCDs in all member-countries by 2025,” Prabhakaran said.
Experts believe that government needs to encourage preventive health to fight with the burden of NCDs.
“Primary prevention of NCDs built upon robust early screening and a strong healthcare infrastructure, is a promising path for reaping favourable returns on investment in Indian context,” the report stated.
This segment also becomes a window of opportunity for private companies to invest in.
“Healthcare is only a tiny portion of keeping people healthy. Preventive health has many aspects, including education, nutrition, food and beverages and exercise. There is a lot of opportunity for different sectors to contribute in this. For example, technology will allow people to make better decisions on food based on caloric intake during the day,” said Norbert Hultenschmidt, partner at Bain and Co., a consultancy.