Low-Income Countries Require More Aid for Chronic
By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health
In an article published in the Jan. 18 issue of The
New England Journal of Medicine, Gerard Anderson, a
professor in the Department
of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health, highlights the need for
more international assistance to address chronic
noncommunicable conditions affecting people living in
low- and middle-income countries.
According to Anderson, chronic conditions such as
cardiovascular disease and cancer result in more deaths and
account for more years of healthy life lost than most
communicable diseases, yet little international aid is
focused on preventing or treating these conditions. For
instance, cardiovascular disease is the cause of 30 percent
of all deaths globally and 27 percent of deaths in
low-income countries. By comparison, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis
and malaria combined account for 10 percent of all deaths
globally and 11 percent of deaths in developing countries.
Prevention and treatment programs for noncommunicable
chronic diseases are possible at relatively low
cost-per-life saved or disability prevented.
"It's a myth that chronic diseases affect only rich
countries. Despite the fact that a substantial burden of
disease in the world's poorer countries is caused by
noncommunicable chronic diseases, most international aid is
focused primarily on preventing and treating infectious
diseases," said Anderson, author of the article, which he
co-authored with Ed Chu, a medical student at Johns
Hopkins. "Treating infectious diseases must remain a
priority, but additional resources should be committed
toward treating and preventing noncommunicable chronic
conditions if we want to address global health needs
effectively and address the major reasons for premature
mortality in the world."
Anderson suggests a number of reasons why
international aid has historically focused on controlling
infectious diseases. For one, infectious diseases pose an
international threat if they spread uncontrolled. Another
is that many donors want a permanent solution such as a
vaccine, which may not be possible with noncommunicable
chronic diseases. Also, chronic conditions are rarely
viewed as urgent problems in low-income countries and
generally do not attract the attention of celebrities.
"The treatment and prevention of noncommunicable
chronic conditions need to be added to our list of global
health priorities," Anderson said. "There are many
effective and affordable interventions."
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