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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 13-22
Social and Economic Implications of Noncommunicable diseases in India

1 World Health Organization, Country Office for India, New Delhi, India
2 Health Economics Unit, School of Public Health, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India
3 Department of Health System Financing, WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
4 Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland
5 WHO Representative of India, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
J S Thakur
National Professional Officer (NCD and Social Determinants of Health), WHO Country Office for India, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0218.94704

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Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have become a major public health problem in India accounting for 62% of the total burden of foregone DALYs and 53% of total deaths. In this paper, we review the social and economic impact of NCDs in India. We outline this impact at household, health system and the macroeconomic level. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) figure at the top among the leading ten causes of adult (25-69 years) deaths in India. The effects of NCDs are inequitable with evidence of reversal in social gradient of risk factors and greater financial implications for the poorer households in India. Out-of-pocket expenditure associated with the acute and long-term effects of NCDs is high resulting in catastrophic health expenditure for the households. Study in India showed that about 25% of families with a member with CVD and 50% with cancer experience catastrophic expenditure and 10% and 25%, respectively, are driven to poverty. The odds of incurring catastrophic hospitalization expenditure were nearly 160% higher with cancer than the odds of incurring catastrophic spending when hospitalization was due to a communicable disease. These high numbers also pose significant challenge for the health system for providing treatment, care and support. The proportion of hospitalizations and outpatient consultations as a result of NCDs rose from 32% to 40% and 22% to 35%, respectively, within a decade from 1995 to 2004. In macroeconomic term, most of the estimates suggest that the NCDs in India account for an economic burden in the range of 5-10% of GDP, which is significant and slowing down GDP thus hampering development. While India is simultaneously experiencing several disease burdens due to old and new infections, nutritional deficiencies, chronic diseases, and injuries, individual interventions for clinical care are unlikely to be affordable on a large scale. While it is clear that "treating our way out" of the NCDs may not be the efficient way, it has to be strongly supplemented with population-based services aimed at health promotion and action on social determinants of health along with individual services. Since health sector alone cannot deal with the "chronic emergency" of NCDs, a multi-sectoral action addressing the social determinants and strengthening of health systems for universal coverage to population and individual services is required.

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