Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) could be accurately described as the 21st Century plague. They are not only threatening the world’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but they are threatening the global workforce at alarming rates which could have a catastrophic effect on economic growth.
Major leading NCDs include; cardiovascular diseases; cancers; respiratory diseases; and diabetes – commonly described as life style diseases by many. A recent World Health Organization report indicated that 41 million people die each year from NCDs, which is equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally – this is incredibly worrying and signals the need for urgent radical measures from all stakeholders including policy makers.
It is also worth knowing that, about 15 million of the people who die from NCDs are between the ages of 30 and 69, (WHO, 2018) which constitute the working population of most countries in the world.
Furthermore, low- and middle-income countries suffer the most deaths as a result of NCDs, with around 85% of all deaths being premature. This is not surprising given the ineffectiveness and inefficiencies of health systems and services,governance, and management coupled with high rates of poverty in these countries.
The time has come for governments and policy makers to come up with solutions to sustain their workforce, many countries have started initiating stringent policies, regulations and laws against risk factors of NCDs, notably bans and limitations on tobacco and alcohol consumption, and healthy eating advocacy campaigns.
Though, the successes of the above measures cannot be underestimated, it would be far-fetched to describe them as effective and efficient since deaths caused by NCDs are still steadily increasing year on year. There is a clear and obvious need for newer innovative strategies and mechanisms.
Governments must institutionalise protections for their workforces- taking responsibility for providing mandatory NCD therapies for its workforce, which must entail early detection, screening, and treatment. Such systems must be rigorous and involve monthly, quarterly and annual reporting mechanisms, for adequate monitoring and evaluation, to ensure efficiency and effectiveness as well as sustainability.
In addition, governments could take up guidelines from the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013- 2020 and tailor them towards country specific institutions and requirements. It is only when governments take such responsibility first that they can take prudent measures to regulate other private companies to ensure their workforces are suitably protected against NCDs.
The fight against NCDs is huge and can only be achieved through holistic measures involving all stakeholders, individuals need to be physically active as well to ensure the measures advocated for can yield positive responses, to protect our global workforce. Only by working together can we turn back this tide.