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WHO REPORT – The impact of the #COVID19 pandemic on noncommunicable disease resources and services: results of a rapid assessment

10 September 2020 – Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), notably cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, are the leading causes of death and disability globally, affecting more people each year than all other causes combined. NCDs are responsible for over 70% of all deaths, with nearly 80% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries (1). In addition, NCDs constitute approximately 80% of all years lived with disability globally (2). With the population ageing, rise in multimorbidity, longer life expectancies and increasing survival rates, more and more people are expected to live with the health burden of NCDs.

Due to their chronic and sometimes life-long nature, NCDs often require repeated interactions with the health system over long periods of time. This includes disease management involving access to essential medicines or rehabilitation services. Not receiving the care needed often has devastating consequences for persons living with NCDs. The unmet burden of NCDs can lead to both health and economic consequences at global, country, household and individual levels, resulting in severe disability, premature deaths, and billions of dollars in economic loss each year.

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world, the ability of countries to address and respond to NCDs has been impacted. The virus has caused broad disruptions to health services while at the same time drawing attention to countries’ NCD burden, as those living with NCDs are at increased risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.

The disruption of health services is particularly problematic for those living with NCDs who need regular care. Several examples from countries show how the disruption of NCD services has directly affected people. For example, screening, case identi cation, and referral systems for cancer have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a substantial decrease in cancer diagnoses. The reduction in admission to hospital of patients with acute coronary syndrome often results in increases in out-of-hospital deaths and long-term complications of myocardial infarction. Disruption in rehabilitation services for people with NCDs in various countries has potentially impacted their functional outcomes and consequently increased the burden of care.
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