Non-communicable diseases

 Young mothers and vaccinated children leave a UNDP-sponsored health clinic in Hakha Township, Chin State, Myanmar. Photo: Tom Cheatham for UNDP

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 38 million people each year. NCDs are diseases that are not passed from one person to another. They are slow to progress and generally last a long time. The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and strokes), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes. NCDs are the single greatest cause of preventable illness, disability and mortality worldwide, they are responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined. Low and middle-income countries bear the brunt of this burden accounting for 86% (29 million) of deaths attributed to NCDs globally.

The social and economic impacts of NCDs are significant and closely linked to poverty.  NCDs reduce global and national economic output, they strain health systems and increase household costs associated with health care. Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people are more affected than people of higher social positions. This is because they are at greater risk of being exposed to harmful products, such as tobacco or unhealthy food, and have limited access to health services. To reduce the impact of NCDs, a multi-sectoral approach is needed that includes sectors like health, finance, education, agriculture, planning and others.

Leveraging its country presence and its core competencies in governance, poverty reduction, and capacity development, UNDP is working with other UN agencies and international partners to strengthen national capacities and encourage multi-sectoral approaches in the implementation of comprehensive national NCD responses.

For example, in the South Pacific, UNDP and WHO brought health and trade officials together to assess the impact of trade agreements on non-communicable diseases and to identify strategies for aligning trade agreements with public health priorities. As a result of this process, Tonga raised its excise rates on carbonated drinks and tobacco.