A Careful Look at the Impact of Non-Communicable Diseases

unnamedToday's guest post comes from Bart Peterson, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications for Eli Lilly and Company.

How do we communicate the urgent need to tackle a global health issue? While the answer may vary based on the nature of the issue, sometimes it appears quite plainly in the numbers. A recent study commissioned by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Life Sciences Information Forum and the APEC Business Advisory Council sought to measure the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in six countries in exactly this way.

The study looked at 6 representative economies in the APEC region (Australia, China, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, and the United States) and examined the effects that the confluence of aging populations and the increasing incidence of NCDs, will have on these economies:


This study serves as a wakeup call for all of us, public and private sector alike. The GDP numbers alone demonstrate the urgency of addressing NCDs worldwide. NCDs currently consume $1 trillion in lost productivity just in these six countries. By 2030, that number will nearly double, translating into an average loss of GDP of over 5% per country. 

Another striking fact revealed by the study was that mortality rates of NCDs dwarf those of communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries.  Of course, communicable diseases are a real threat to public health and deserve continued attention from authorities, but the enormous disparity in death rates suggests that NCDs deserve as much attention from the public and public health authorities.  At a minimum, the data illustrates the need for global action to address these health challenges.

The study also highlights the dramatically aging populations across the six economies. The confluence of the aging populations and rising incidence of NCDs has profound implications for governments. From projections of lost productivity to a decreased GDP, to massive strains on health budgets and pension liabilities, these numbers clearly communicate the growing importance of identifying solutions. While these facts can help communicate the value of this fight, we must also work to move beyond the numbers to action.

Action in this instance requires collaboration across public and private sectors. This problem is too big for just one stakeholder to handle alone.  Whether this means creating opportunities, like the Lilly NCD Partnership, or finding other innovative solutions, working together presents our best bet to improve global health outcomes.