Treating NCDs in Developing Countries: A New Humanitarian Focus

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SEATTLE — According to the American Public Health Association, a communicable disease is one that is infectious and can spread from person to person or from animal to person. Ebola, HIV, dengue fever and Lyme disease are a few examples of communicable diseases. On the other hand, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are non-transmissible. NCDs are also known as chronic diseases and persons of all regions and age groups are at risk.

The Importance of Addressing NCDs in Developing Countries

Until recently, humanitarian aid in developing countries focused on communicable diseases. However, 2017 was the first time the need for addressing NCDs was recognized. After all, an estimated 41 million people die each year as a result of NCDs or 71 percent of all deaths globally. Factors propelling NCDs include fast unplanned urbanization, globalization of unhealthy lifestyles and population aging.

Some Challenges

According to The New Humanitarian, one of the biggest hurdles in addressing NCDs in vulnerable areas is the fact that data collection does not keep pace with the essential life-saving services that must be delivered. “We’ll have to work towards simplifications in the process, decentralise programmes, and make them more community-based,” Amulya Reddy, a medical advisor at Médecins Sans Frontières told the news outlet.

It is also important to note that NCD treatment in a crisis situation as a result of a natural disaster is different from a crisis resulting from political conflict. This is why it is important to have a structure in place to train medical practitioners to handle the myriad of public health concerns during a time of crisis.

Raising funds for NCDs is a concern for officials who are working to gain some traction for awareness. NCD treatment is a long-term commitment especially in times of humanitarian crises. Such a long-term venture requires adequate resources and funds to provide the necessary care.

Providing efficient NCD treatment requires these regions to have a database to turn to in order to follow healthcare protocol. In terms of lack of data, NCD treatment becomes increasingly difficult because humanitarian aid officers do not know where to begin in the treatment, which can ultimately lead to excessive expenses.

Progress

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the need for NCD treatment during crisis situations, the emergency kit has been ramified to include necessary instruments to assist in NCD care. According to the WHO, the need to address NCDs and the sequential development of the “emergency health kit was developed in response to the growing prevalence of NCDs in low and middle-income countries.”

In the case of cardiovascular disease, medications to treat acute severe hypertension along with the increased quantity of hydrochlorothiazide to treat acute severe hypertension. In terms of diabetes, human insulin has been included to stabilize acute life-threatening hyperglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis. Changes such as beclomethasone inclusion, increased salbutamol inhalers and increased prednisolone 5mg tablets for asthma treatment and pulse oximeter inclusion have been incorporated for pulmonary disease. All of these tools and more allow for the care of 10,000 individuals for a duration of three months.

Conclusion

Although NCD treatment comes with its challenges, the U.N. General Assembly passed a declaration regarding NCDs in a step toward progress. This gathering brings NCDs to the conversation and by being in the spotlight, more work can be done to combat the issue. Additionally, the conversation to prioritize NCD treatment in the long-term has created outlets for research and data collection during times of crises. This allows for more information, which can then be used efficiently in other crisis situations.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Unsplash

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