GhNCDA Calls on Government to Make NCD Financing a Development Priority

As the World Marks The Global Week For Action on NCDs

The Ghana NCD Alliance joins the NCD Alliance Global and the millions of health advocates worldwide to commemorate the Global Week for Actions 2022 (GW4A), which seeks to bridge the huge NCD investment gap by calling for the urgent need for increased NCD financing to protect, prevent and treat NCDs and build resilient health systems.

Financing NCDs has stagnated at a pitiful 1-2% of development assistance for health for two decades, causing many deaths and pushing millions more into extreme poverty due to exorbitant health care costs and disability. “We need urgent investment now to turn the devastating tide of NCDs”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Although the burden is universal, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disproportionately hit the hardest. Without adequate measures to forestall this growing burden, the number is projected to grow to 52 million people annually by 2030 according to the NCD Alliance. The underlying drivers of this burden are attributed to poor eating patterns, lack of physical activity, air pollution, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

According to the WHO NCD Monitor, NCDs account for about 42% of deaths and 31% of disease burden and kill an estimated 94,400 persons each year in Ghana. Studies in the general population have estimated that 6% of the population in Ghana has diabetes with the prevalence increasing with age and being higher in urban than in rural areas (PubMed Central). The increasing burden of NCDs in Ghana results in poor mental and physical health, premature mortality, and increase costs of living for individuals, families, and healthcare services.

There is growing evidence that the urgent framing of NCDs and research and funding priorities insufficiently reflect the voices of those most affected, particularly those in the poorest nations of the world. It became clear in 2011 when countries all over the world convened and made a Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control, that NCDs must be accorded the needed attention to ameliorating the deaths and suffering of millions of people, particularly those from developing economies. There has been subsequent global discussion and declarations on NCDs including those on UHC, the SDGs, etc. however seeing these commitments translate into meaningful action including investment for NCDs is conspicuously missing.

Meaningfully involving people living with NCDs and communities is essential to access their knowledge, skills, and expertise in all aspects of the NCD response that affect them, including governance, policies, programmes, and services.

In decades past, there have been great advances made in global health; for example, in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. “So, we know that the change we wish to see in NCD financing and investment is within our reach”.

Around the world, strategic investments in health not only deliver better health and improve wellbeing for many people but also boost economies, create jobs, and enhance personal productivity; Investing in health is a vital economic and societal catalyst.

The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century (WHO 2022) hence, the urgent need to prioritize NCDs as a developmental agenda both at the national and global levels. The Ghana NCD Alliance, therefore, commends the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) for taking initiatives to prioritize NCDs within the “National Medium-Term Development Policy Framework 202-2025; which provides a great opportunity for Ghana to showcase the commitments to NCDs prevention and control.

The Ghana NCD Alliance calls on the Ministry of Finance to consider in the 2023 budget an increase in taxes on health-harming commodities such as alcohol, tobacco, and sugar-sweetened beverages as a means to raise domestic resources. This can serve as an alternative source of funding for health related NCDs financing, improve health outcomes, and reduce the health care expenditure of government. It is important to note that most NCDs are not on the National Health Insurance benefit package, hence the need to support the scheme adequately to treat NCDs.

The Ghana NCD Alliance projects the following key recommendations for consideration and subsequent implementation as well:

  • Monitor the implementation of NCDs policies in Ghana by relevant institutions/stakeholders
  • Earmarking revenue generated from health-harming commodities.
  • Increase in the budget allocation on health.
  • Include NCD medication in the National health insurance scheme
  • Meaningfully engage the lived experience voices in all development discourse
  • Involve/include the relevant private sector in efforts to reduce the NCDs burden
  • With Ghana as a global leader in NCDs and SDGs, we urge the government to galvanize global support for NCDs financing to be included in the Global Fund especially in the lead up to the UNGA in September, 2022 and the Sustainable NCD Financing next year.

It is prudent to reiterate the statement made by Dr. Lily Owusu of the National Development Planning Commission in the strategic meeting by the Ghana NCD Alliance as part of activities to mark the Global Week For Action on Tuesday 6th September, 2022 for emphasis “There is urgent need to provide funding for nationally relevant research on nutrition and NCDs including foodborne diseases”.

The Global Week for Action on NCDs aims to slow the increasing burden of NCDs with collaborations across countries and sectors towards a common goal: reducing preventable death and illness and increasing health and equity around the world. Commencing in 2018 under the theme ENOUGH to preventable death and illness from NCDs, the Global Week for Action has gathered momentum and has become the most interactive and active NCD advocacy week.

In 2022, we are bridging the NCD Investment gap, prioritizing the urgent need for increased NCD financing to prevent and treat NCDs and build resilient health systems that leave no one behind. The Global Week for Action will raise awareness about NCDs while focusing on a specific theme each year from 2020 to 2025.

Collectively we can triumph over the NCD canker, the media however has an onerous obligation to highlight public calls of support for health policies as this will strengthen public health systems and bring relief to the people.

Investing in NCD prevention will save money and lives, which is critical to achieving the SDG target 3.4. “Scaling up and accelerating action on NCDs should be seen as the fulfillment of a promise by governments rather than a choice. The time to Invest to protect a healthier population is now”.

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