New Delhi: Over 20% of the country’s population suffers from at least one of the non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are estimated to cost India $6.2 trillion during the period 2012-2030, according to a report released on Tuesday. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases or chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart ailments, respiratory diseases and diabetes, kill 38 million people globally every year.

The advocacy paper—’NCDs in the Development Agenda’—has been prepared by global non-profit organisation Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) with technical support from the National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC), an agency under the National Health Mission.

The report is an attempt to sensitise decision-makers at all levels towards the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and help shape their opinion towards a multi-stakeholder approach, an official of PFCD India said. “Of the estimated 98.16 lakh deaths in India in 2014, NCDs hold over 60% share. It accounts for 53% of the disease burden," executive director of NHSRC Sanjiv Kumar was said in a statement released by PFCD. “Evidence demonstrates that NCDs not only affect health and quality of life, but also productivity and economic growth," he added.

According to the report, “NCDs are estimated to cost India $6.2 trillion during the period 2012-2030. India could lose $4.8 trillion in lost economic output by 2030 due to NCDs." NHSRC helped PFCD with statistical analysis and lent technical support during the study which was conducted over a long period of time. The report was compiled in the last month or so, the official said. “Over 20% of the population in the country has at least one chronic disease and more than 10% of the people have more than one. Probability of death during the most productive years from one of the four NCDs is 26%," it said.

The report also says that of the 60% (over 5.8 million) deaths due to NCDs in 2014, 25 lakh took place due to cardiovascular diseases, 12 lakh to chronic respiratory diseases, 6.6 lakh to cancer and 1.9 lakh to diabetes. The report has identified “urbanisation, industrialisation and fast-paced socio-economic development," among the major factors due to which a change in policy is needed to combat NCDs. Highlighting the economic burden due to NCDs, the report also said, “Diabetes, heart disease and stroke cost India $237 billion in lost income from 2005 to 2015."

Most NCD cases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and others are diagnosed late, primarily due to low awareness levels and lack of early screening.

According to the report, air pollution is killing nearly eight lakh people annually in the South East Asian Region with India alone accounting for over 75% of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. Almost three quarters of NCD deaths—28 million—occur in low-income and middle-income countries, as per WHO estimates. According to PFCD Chairman Kenneth Thorpe, “Substantial burden of NCDs limits the government’s ability to address this public health concern single-handedly. No one single player can successfully deal with the challenges associated with it."

Thorpe, also the Robert W Woodruff Professor of Health Policy at Emory University, says, “Our elected as well as nominated representatives can play an important role in not only creating awareness among the people, but also mobilising resources and support from all concerned groups to strengthen early screening, diagnosis and primary care." The PFCD official said the “advocacy paper would be soon sent to all stakeholders in public health sector in India, including the Health Ministry, the MPs and the related Standing Committees in Parliament."

According to WHO, sixteen million NCD deaths occur before the age of 70; 82% of these “premature" deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD. “Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has initiated action on many fronts but with such a high disease burden, the government will not be able to address the issue on its own. What is required is a multi-sectoral approach from all," Kumar said, adding there is an urgent need for effective intervention strategies at the grassroots level. The paper factoring the societal impact says, “Nearly 60% of total health expenditure in India is paid out-of-pocket."

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression.

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