Within a generation, the share of disease burden attributed to noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in some low-income countries will exceed 80 percent, rivaling that of richer countries.
In a new study appearing in the November issue of Health Affairs, Thomas Bollyky of the Council on Foreign Relations and coauthors examined the shift from communicable to noncommunicable diseases and estimated preparedness for it by ranking 172 nations.
The analysis showed that the burden of premature noncommunicable diseases is growing quickly in lower-income countries due more to demographic factors than to modifiable behavioral risks such as unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
The shift to noncommunicable diseases will be fastest in the countries with the health systems that are the least prepared to manage and treat these diseases (see the exhibit below).
The study authors conclude that more investment is needed from national governments and donors to 1) reduce key modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use; 2) increase lower-cost access to primary and preventive care; and 3) prepare the health systems of lower-income countries for the faster than expected rise of noncommunicable diseases.
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