According to the World Health Organization, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 60% of all deaths globally. 80% of this global burden of NCDs occurs in low and middle income countries.
The prevalence of NCDs -such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes- is rising rapidly and projected to account for 3/4 as much deaths as communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases by 2020, and to exceed them as the major cause of deaths by 2030.
This is a serious cause of concern and actions need to be taken now especially as these diseases are largely preventable. According to the World Bank, more than half of the NCD burden could be avoided through health promotion and prevention initiatives aiming at the four main risk factors namely: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, insufficient physical activity, and unhealthy diet/obesity.
This alarming statistic is worsened by the fact that non-communicable diseases strike individuals in their prime productive years. The opportunity cost of not taking action now is that over the next two decades, NCDs will cost low income countries at least $21 trillion in economic output.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are the leading funders of global health initiatives, thus dictating where action is being taken and what is being done to improve global health.
As critical as NCDs currently are and the looming prospect of rapid rise in the future it is quite concerning that sparse global funding is available for field action on these diseases.
The implications of this huge funding gap calls into question the equity aspect of global health funding and the sustainability of efforts aimed at reducing global mortality and morbidity.
With such a privileged status and thus responsibility to steer the course of global health, it is undeniable that addressing NCDs should be among the top priorities of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
We are thus enthusiastically looking forward to seeing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation take up the challenge of addressing this grave issue which not only costs the developing world trillions of dollars annually but also has the capacity to undermine all the efforts that have been put into poverty alleviation, health system strengthening and economic development.