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History tells us how we got here, but not how to fully embrace the NCD challenge and build a healthier future for global populations. That will take the vision to imagine a better world and the courage to implement the changes to achieve it. The result will be an improved outlook for global health.
The explosion in NCDs is responsible for more than two-thirds of global mortality, as well as a significant proportion of the rise in healthcare spending over the past two decades. Although NCDs are increasing around the world, the burden of dealing with them will especially rest on developing economies, where health systems are generally still struggling to provide basic primary care services and many citizens still lack access to healthcare.
The following articles will take a look at the sociology of NCDs to understand how social networks can create their own contagion. We also examine how we might reimagine urban spaces with a healthier population in mind. Lastly, we reflect on the extent to which health technology has been the victim of its own hype and identify the innovations that are likely to be a key part of managing NCDs in the future.
What our articles on the outlook for global health reveal is that reducing NCDs requires policies that take into account the immediate environment, lifestyle risks and the medical background of patients. This includes paying closer attention to the way smaller communities and social groups can encourage or discourage healthy habits through their influence on family, friends and neighbours. A macro approach to NCDs must include all the social determinants of health and involve policies that integrate them accordingly. In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, the importance of comprehensive policy has never been clearer.
TEXT Andrea Chipman — PHOTO Paulius Dragunas
Read the articles from the Outlook series:
Non-communicable diseases, obesity and the covid-19 impetus for building better health systems
Non-communicable diseases and their risk factors seem to be common among certain groups of friends and families. Genetic reasons aside, the concepts of social contagion, shared spaces and a tendency for similar people to associate (known as homophily), might explain why these diseases appear to be more infectious than their name suggests
The number of people living in cities is projected to rise from 55 % to 68 % of the world’s population by 2050, according to the United Nations. Strong leadership and multi-sectoral planning can make our cities far healthier for human habitation
Can information technology save the world from the rising burden of ill-health? And can personal data be guarded with sufficient vigilance for people to put their trust in the authorities to handle it with due responsibility? There are no easy answers
Digital health solutions have the potential to enhance the reach and capacity of the health workforce and the efficiency of health services, write Katie Dain and Lobna Salem of the NCD Alliance. They have been a key factor in battling the covid-19 pandemic, helping health systems to function under tremendous pressure, particularly in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs), where care resources tend to be scarce even in non-pandemic times
The novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fault lines in both global and national health infrastructures, highlighting inequalities and structural flaws. There has never been a timelier moment to focus on how to improve the resilience of health systems
A decade of initiatives to combat non-communicable diseases have failed to curb their growth. Policymakers need a more comprehensive approach that recognises the complexity of these health failures and takes lessons from successful infectious disease campaigns
Rates of obesity are skyrocketing, and more comprehensive policies are needed to fully address the complex causes of the condition
The obesity crisis has been a long time in the making, gathering force despite more than a decade of individual initiatives to reduce the numbers of seriously overweight people. Comprehensive policymaking that touches on the complex roots of obesity has huge potential to reverse the progress of a deadly epidemic linked to growth in economic prosperity
As obesity reaches epidemic levels globally, experts are reflecting on the mixed results of policies implemented over the past decade and asking if obesity should be treated as a disease more than as a lifestyle choice that individuals can modify
Populations in more than one in three low-income countries are hit by a double burden of malnutrition in the form of both obesity and undernutrition. Effective nutrition programmes can help countries overcome the double malnutrition challenge