Tackling the world’s biggest killer - NCDs - has been rising on the global health and sustainable development agenda for the past two decades. Yet, as highlighted by the 2022 theme of the Global Week for Action on NCDs, investment in preventing and treating chronic disease is still severely lacking. NCDs remain the most underfunded global health issue relative to the billions of people impacted, and bridging this investment gap offers the world’s greatest potential to save and improve lives by 2030: approximately 80% of the 15 million annual premature deaths from NCDs in LMICs can be prevented or delayed into old age.
Norway sets a precedent in tackling NCDs
Bilateral donors (e.g. national governments or their development agencies) are the main source of funding for global health, but until now they have simply been absent from the field of NCDs – development aid for NCDs has never risen above 1-2% of the total aid granted. However, with its Better Health, Better Lives strategy, Norway may be changing this. It is the first OECD country to translate the inclusion of NCDs within the Sustainable Development Goals into their overseas development policy, and back it up with much-needed resources.
With a budget of US$133 million (1.2 billion NOK) from 2020 to 2024, Norway aims to combat NCDs with actions that span various sectors and areas of society, including education, sustainable food systems, climate and environment, renewable energy, humanitarian work, people with disabilities, digitalisation and good governance.
Even though US$133 million may seem like a modest sum in comparison with the magnitude of the NCD burden, this already positions Norway as one of the top three supporters of NCD prevention and control, well ahead of the US, UK, France, Germany and Canada. Norway’s step forward is a true story of change that sets a precedent for other countries to develop their own integral strategies to turn the tide on NCDs.
NCDs are a savvy investment
This call is especially compelling since a 2022 NCD Countdown 2030 paper demonstrated that the initiatives in NCD prevention and care required to reach Sustainable Development Goal target 3.4 are realistic and cost effective - with an average return on investment of 19 to one. 39 million lives will be saved from premature death between 2023 and 2030 if ministries of health contribute just 20% of their budgets to high-priority NCDs.
All countries – and especially LMICs – can achieve or nearly achieve SDG 3.4 by 2030 by introducing a cost-effective package of NCD prevention and treatment interventions, that are fully aligned with the WHO best buys for NCDs and can be tailored to countries’ local contexts. And achieving SDG 3.4 means significant progress will have been made towards achieving other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, like those addressing equality, poverty, education, and climate change, amongst others.
Find out how you can get involved in improving NCD prevention and care through this year’s Global Week for Action on NCDs. The theme this year is investment, and as always, everyone has a role to play!