Lack of action on Non-Communicable Diseases damaging Pacific economies

New World Bank report highlights the potential economic burden of NCDs in the Pacific.

— By World Bank

NUKU’ALOFA, June 20, 2016 – A new World Bank report has put the spotlight on the economic threat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose to the Pacific Islands, with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease emerging as the top killers in the region.

The draft report, Pacific Possible: Health and Non-Communicable Diseases, was released for public comment today at the Pacific NCDs Summit in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa. It shows that the economic burden of NCDs continues to rise in the Pacific. It projects that if no action is taken, the economic loss due to NCD mortality across 11 Pacific Island countries will reach between 8.5 and 14.3 percent of gross domestic product by 2040. The costs of NCD morbidity could increase, on average, from 13.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2015 to 18.8 percent by 2040.

“NCDs are a major public health issue in the Pacific region. Their economic burden is much greater in the Pacific Island countries than the global average,” said report lead author and World Bank senior health economist, Xiaohui Hou. “The number of Pacific Islanders affected by these conditions will continue to rise unless we work together to reduce unhealthy habits and ensure limited health resources are delivering the most value for the greatest number of people.”

The report also raises concerns over the long term financial sustainability of public health expenditures in the region, given that Pacific countries already spend a greater share of government funds on health care than the average across lower-middle incomes countries worldwide.

The report includes a number of key recommendations that Pacific Island governments could consider to help inform public health policies aimed at reducing NCDs, which directly cause up to 77 percent of deaths in the Pacific and are a major reason for premature deaths...

Pacific Possible: Health and Non-Communicable Diseases comes at a time when NCDs are placing enormous pressure on healthcare systems across the region, with public health expenditures reaching potentially unsustainable levels in some cases. However, the report also demonstrates that with strong actions, the economic costs of NCDs can be reduced and the Pacific Island countries can reach their potential.

The draft report is one of six papers released as part of Pacific Possible(www.worldbank.org/pacificpossible), a series of reports that look at potentially transformative opportunities for Pacific Island countries over the coming 25 years.

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