Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), also sometime known as chronic or lifestyle-related diseases, include four key conditions: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. These diseases are the world's biggest killers and a leading cause of death in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). Every year, more than 1.7 million people in the Region die from these 4 diseases alone, and yet many of these deaths could be prevented through simple lifestyle-related changes and cost-effective interventions implemented by national governments.
The regional burden of NCDs continues to grow and tackling this burden constitutes one of the major development challenges of the 21stcentury. NCDs claimed over 2.2 million lives in 2012, over 57% of all deaths in the region. Future projections indicate there will be an alarming increase in the prevalence of NCDs with the 4 main NCDs causing as many as 2.4 million deaths in 2025, unless serious action is taken.
Under WHO's leadership more than 190 countries agreed in 2011 on global mechanisms to reduce the avoidable NCDs burden, including a "Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020". This plan aims at reducing the number of premature deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025 through 9 voluntary global targets, which address risk behaviours, such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. “Best buy" or cost-effective, high-impact interventions exist to help governments meet the global targets.
Investing in NCDs prevention and control not only improves health and saves lives, but can also improve a country's economic productivity. It can improve workforce participation and productivity, and limit the financial burden of unexpected health costs from NCDs on individuals and families. Investment is particularly important in most EMR Member States, where the NCDs burden continues to rise, and health systems are less resilient.
The economic aspects of NCDs are too often overlooked in budgetary allocation processes. Quantifying the costs of NCDs management and interventions to prevent and control NCDs, as well as their returns in relation to the costs of inaction, has been a high-priority request from Member States. Investment cases are designed to help countries make their own economic rationale for action to prevent and control NCDs.