Costly noncommunicable diseases on rise in developing world

Cancer, COPD, other diseases taking global toll

The global economy last year spent an estimated $300 billion on newly diagnosed cancer cases, $400 billion on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and billions more on diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and other noncommunicable diseases that are increasing in the developing world. The increase is thought to be related to rising risk factors, such as tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diet, inactivity, and alcohol use in addition to aging of the population and negative effects of urbanization, international trade and marketing. The figures were announced at a United Nations (UN) press briefing June 20, 2011, featuring HSPH’s David Bloom, chair, Department of Global Health and Population, and reported on June 21 in The New York Times and other media.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) cause about two-thirds (or 36 million) of the 57 million deaths annually in the world. About 80 percent of the NCDs deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Nearly 30 percent of those deaths are in people under age 60. Unless action is taken, NCDs are predicted to claim 52 million people annually by 2030, according to an April 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report.

Preliminary data from a World Economic Forum sponsored study that Bloom leads estimates a $35 trillion economic output loss from 2005 to 2030 due to diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, and COPD. Bloom discussed the study at the UN briefing held to preview an upcoming UN summit on noncommunicable diseases in September. Early study findings indicate that the economic burden from these diseases “will evolve into a staggering economic burden over the next two decades” and could greatly impact economic development and take away funds available to fight poverty. More resources should be directed to prevention, screening, and treatment throughout the world, Bloom said.

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Department of Global Health and Population