Understanding the Economic dimension of NCDs and tools to effectively address them

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) hosted a Brown Bag Lunch (BBL) titled “Harnessing economics to improve multisectoral Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) action – Investment Cases and Taxation in Latin America and the Caribbean” at its headquarters in Washington, DC on September 11, 2019. Speakers included Rachel Nugent of RTI International and Rosa Sandoval of PAHO.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors are the leading causes of morbidity, mortality, and disability in the Americas, and they represent both a public health challenge and a serious threat to economic and social development. In the Region of the Americas, NCDs cause approximately 5.5 million deaths per year, representing 80.7% of all deaths. Of the total mortality from NCDs, 38.9% are premature deaths occurring in people under 70 years of age. Global evidence indicates that the high health burden of NCDs translates into significant economic and social costs that threaten to diminish the quality of life of millions of individuals, impoverish families, jeopardize universal health coverage, and increase health disparities within and between countries.

The NCD epidemic cannot be tackled through interventions and policies in the health sector alone. Prevention measures that address NCD risk factors involve a range of sectors including finance, trade, education, agriculture, and transportation. Policy makers, intergovernmental organizations and members of civil society, all face the issue of how best to respond to the challenges posed by NCDs. There is emerging evidence demonstrating not only the economic harm done by NCDs but also the costs and benefits related to addressing them.

This session provided an overview of the economic tools that are currently being used by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to advance multisectoral action on NCDs, including country-specific return on investment analysis of selected interventions, and the use of taxes as a public health tool. PAHO’s work is based on interventions identified by WHO as being cost-effective.

The BBL is the second of two such events, the first of which was held at the World Bank in 2018. These events are organized under the umbrella of the Inter-American Task Force on NCDs.