ogweno2_Fred MutuneXinhua via Getty Images_ncds Fred Mutune/Xinhua via Getty Images

Funding the Fight Against Noncommunicable Diseases

Noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, but efforts to tackle them receive less than 10% of the global health budget. With the NCD burden likely to increase further, countries must take five urgent steps to bring about a shift in funding priorities.

NAIROBI – Noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, and mental disorders, are often chronic and develop over a long period. Collectively, NCDs account for about 70% of all deaths globally (and 60% of deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa, where they account for over 55% of hospital admissions in countries such as Kenya). Developing countries thus face a double burden of illness, with communicable diseases like malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis still presenting a huge challenge alongside the rising incidence of NCDs.

One might expect that the large and increasing burden of NCDs would lead to more funding and resources being channeled toward addressing them. But the fight is chronically underfunded and remains a low priority compared to efforts to tackle infectious diseases.

There is no global fund for any NCD: In 2019, over 40% of NCD development assistance came from private institutions. But efforts to combat communicable diseases, the burden of which has declined significantly over the years, have several dedicated international funding institutions, including the Global Fund, Gavi, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And although NCDs are the leading cause of death worldwide, they account for less than 10% of the global health budget.

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