Leaders in the noncommunicable disease community often state that international donor spending on chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer far underrepresents their burden in developing countries. Now, a new report from the nonprofit Center for Global Development provides stark data to back up the claim.
“Where Have all the Donors Gone? Scarce Donor Funding for Non-Communicable Diseases” examines the trends in public and private donor resources from 2004 to the present. The work was supported by PepsiCo.
Contrary to widespread belief, the impact of chronic, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) exceeds that of infectious/communicable disease in the developing world as well as the developed. In 2008, NCDs contributed 48% to morbidity and mortality in developing countries, compared with 39% from infectious diseases (with the remainder due to injury). For mortality, those proportions were 59% vs. 31%, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data quoted in the report.
At a panel event held at the CGD’s headquarters in Washington last week, report coauthor Rachel A. Nugent, Ph.D., said $503 million was spent on NCDs in 2007, accounting for less than 3% of the $22 billion in total development assistance for health. In contrast, nearly a third of the total — $6.3 billion — was devoted to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
By disease burden, this works out to less than one U.S. dollar – just 78 cents – per disability-adjusted life year (DALY), compared with $23.9/DALY for the three infectious diseases. “That’s fairly staggering. … It’s a significant disparity in level of effort,” Dr. Nugent commented.
Approximately 15% of health funding in low-income countries comes from external donor sources. The WHO contributed the greatest amount in 2007, $812 million. Other top donors include the Wellcome Trust UK, the World Bank, the Bloomberg Family Foundation, and the Gates Foundation.
Funding for noncommunicable disease will be the focus of a high-level United Nations NCD Summit scheduled for September 2011. The idea is not to take away money from infectious disease, Dr. Nugent said.
Rather, “I hope that growing attention to this issue stays focused on achieving greater health for the money that’s being invested already and additional money that may eventually be invested to increase flexibility in health delivery across sectors and across health conditions, because I think that’s where we’re going to get the most bang for the buck and the best development results.”
And why is PepsiCo interested in this? I asked the company’s senior vice president for global health policy Dr. Derek Yach, who also spoke at the CGD event. His reply: “We are committed to addressing major nutritional and other underlying causes of ill health and NCDs as part of a broad commitment to health and the environment. It is in our long term interests and represents a convergence between opportunities for PepsiCo to build a profitable business based on healthy products.”
-Miriam E. Tucker (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)