30 October 2012

Cost of non-communicable diseases to weigh on society more than the global financial crisis

Even in the recovery period of the banking crisis the cost of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will place a larger burden on society than the global financial crisis, according to a pan-European think-tank of healthcare policymakers, NGOs, academics and industry stakeholders at a summit organised by Economist Conferences, focusing on NCDs in Geneva. Securing governmental commitment on NCDs and public-private partnerships are key strategies to tackling the public health challenge.

The estimated total global economic burden of these chronic diseases – diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory diseases - will mount to USD $47 trillion by 2030.[1] This poses a huge economic burden equivalent to 75% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) for 2010. With the World Health Assembly setting a target of reducing NCD related deaths by 25% by 2025, it is imperative for policymakers to find innovative approaches to contain the growing problem and alleviate pressures on healthcare systems. NCDs are already the world’s number one collective killer, accounting for two out of three deaths globally and 86% of deaths in the EU. The growing problem not only threatens peoples’ quality of life but also puts added strain on healthcare systems to cope with increasing demand.

In the time of austerity, governments are saving money instead of investing funds to ensure long-term gain. Healthcare stakeholders need to engage policymakers and payers to convince them of the benefits of investing in NCD prevention which will pay future dividends. “The NCD epidemic will overwhelm our generation if we do not take steps to prevent, detect and treat the diseases more effectively than we do today. Our approach to risk factors like tobacco needs overhauling. The priority towards NCDs in all countries needs to be re-assessed, particularly in developing countries.  The solution is not in the hands of governments alone. We all have a role to play – civil society, the private sector and national governments.” said Cary Adams, CEO, Union for International Cancer Control and Chair, NCD Alliance.

The private sector plays a very important role in driving the fight against NCDs. Innovative public-private partnerships will help ensure NCD prevention targets are met, however both sectors must be aligned in sharing a common goal. Importantly, trust between the public and private sector must be built in order for these challenge to be effectively addressed.

Eli Lilly and Company has an innovative framework in place to ensure sustainable responses that work. Dr John Lechleiter, CEO of Eli Lilly and Company commented: “We are already running several programmes to address NCDs in the developing world which follows an innovative framework of research, report and advocate. We work closely with national stakeholders from government, NGOs and the private sector to identify gaps for diseases like diabetes. He added: “We provide our expertise, resources and funding to our partners in order for them to implement these programmes. We depend on their in-country expertise and infrastructure; and on governments, industry and other donors to replicate these successful programmes to ensure maximum impact and long-term benefits for the patients.”

The debate is the focus of Economist Conferences’ “New Responses to Non-Communicable Diseases 2012” summit, which brings together key stakeholders to discuss the big issues currently facing the growing problem of NCDs and how this can be tackled, from the role of nutrition in healthy ageing to the role of public-private partnerships.

The summit discussed strategies to convince policy-makers to prioritise prevention and invest in NCDs prevention. Evidence-based policy-making will encourage governments to implement sustainable programmes that work.  Alan Davies, Medical Director, GE Healthcare, said: “Ultimately policymakers and budget decision makers need to factor in the socioeconomic cost of doing nothing, and weigh that against the decision to invest more in the solutions and technologies that will allow earlier intervention. Budget holders in areas outside of healthcare, like education, employment, and welfare, need to recognise the benefit to them of these medical technologies being implemented.”

Summit discussions also highlighted the role of nutrition in healthy ageing and disease management in combating diseases and the subsequent impact this has on healthcare costs. Furthermore, healthcare experts discussed how people can be incentivised to lead healthy lifestyles. The panelists discussed the importance of involving  patients as part of the solution, highlighting that patient involvement is crucial in helping tackle the issues of NCDs.

Among the government leaders, academics, policymakers and expert industry stakeholders participating in New Responses to Non-Communicable Diseases summit are: Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer, World Heart Federation; Ann Keeling, Chief Executive Officer, International Diabetes Federation; Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director General, World Health Organisation; Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control and Chair, NCD Alliance; John Lechleiter, Chief Executive Officer, Eli Lilly and Company; Nils Billo, Executive Director, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease; Nicola Bedlington, Executive Director, European Patients Forum; Ursula Koch, Head of Division, National Prevention Programme, Swiss Federal Office of Public Health; Alan Davies, Medical Director, GE Healthcare; and Richard Visser, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports, Aruba


Eli Lilly and Company is the lead sponsor of the summit.

For a full list of speakers and the full conference programme please visit:

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