As the WHO report indicates, COVID-19 has been unforgiving on people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and has laid bare the failure of the vast majority of governments worldwide to adequately guarantee the health of its citizens.
We were already suffering from chronic underinvestment in NCD prevention and treatment – including screening, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care – and the COVID-19 pandemic has come back to bite us as care and treatment essential to the wellbeing, recovery and even survival of people living with NCDs are being disrupted in almost every country.
According to the WHO Assessment, in the countries most affected by COVID-19 (community transmission): almost half (46%) of countries report disrupted services for cardiovascular emergencies (including heart attack and stroke), over half of countries report disrupted cancer treatment (54%); and almost two-thirds of countries report disrupted hypertension management (64%) and diabetes treatment (62%).
It is not an understatement to say that the emerging evidence is dramatic. People exposed to the main risk factors – unhealthy diets, smoking, alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and air pollution – are far more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, far more vulnerable to developing severe complications, and far more vulnerable to death from the virus.
This has been a bitter pill to swallow but going forward must serve as a lesson hard learned, a wake-up call for all governments: that keeping your citizens healthy from preventable NCDs is not simply about a choice to invest in health, it is an investment to a country´s economic stability security, and tantamount for pandemic preparedness in the future.