To say healthcare systems across the globe are under severe strain due to COVID-19 is a massive understatement.
In a recent survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the agency found that prevention and treatment services for noncommunicable diseases (NCD) like cancer and diabetes have been significantly affected by COVID-19, with low-income countries feeling the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.
According to the WHO, 53% of the countries surveyed reported “partially or completely disrupted services” for hypertension treatment, 49% for diabetes treatment, 31% for cardiovascular emergencies, and 42% for cancer treatment. 63% of respondents also reported disruptions in rehabilitation services.
Globally, NCDs kill 41 million people each year. That’s 71% of all recorded deaths. Of that figure 15 million are aged 30 to 69-years-old, with 85% of these cases coming from low- and middle-income countries.
The most common factors in NCD treatment disruption were transportation issues, lack of staff, and lack of medicine or equipment. Almost all (94%) of the countries that took part in the survey reported having to reassign NCD staff to support COVID-19 treatments. Postponement of screening programs for breast and cervical cancer, meanwhile, was reported by 50% of countries.
Not all governments are sitting on their hands regarding this issue: The majority of the countries surveyed said NCD services were part of their COVID-19 preparedness and response plans. Only 42% of low-income nations, though, reported including NCD services in their response compared to 72% of high-income countries.
”It will be some time before we know the full extent of the impact of disruptions to health care during COVID-19 on people with noncommunicable diseases,” WHO director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, Dr. Bente Mikkelsen says.
“What we know now, however, is that not only are people with NCDs more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, but many are unable to access the treatment they need to manage their illnesses.”
“It is very important not only that care for people living with NCDs is included in national response and preparedness plans for COVID-19 -? but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans,” Mikkelsen adds.