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Moderators of Non-Communicable Diseases and GHDonline staff

You may use this brief for informational, non-commercial purposes with credit attribution: The Global Health Delivery Project, GHDonline.org, Dec 22, 2011. Please see our Terms of Use for more information.

Challenges of Treating Endemic NCDs in Low Resource Settings

Added on 22 Dec 2011

Authors: By: Marie Connelly; Reviewed by Sophie G. Beauvais and Ziad El-Khatib, MSc, PhD

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, lung and heart diseases are a growing problem globally - a fact that has received considerable attention at the United Nations’ High-level Meeting on these diseases in September 2011. While NCDs in high- and middle-income countries are often linked to lifestyle factors like obesity, tobacco use and alcohol consumption, less often discussed are the NCDs most prevalent in low-income countries where infectious, hereditary and environmental risk factors play a more significant role (PIH, 2011)

Members discuss common NCDs in their communities, as well as a number of challenges to identifying and treating these diseases in resource-limited settings.

Key Points:

  • Many countries lack both cost-effective diagnostics and well developed monitoring systems for NCDs, which makes it harder to identify their impact on a health system, or evaluate the success of treatment or prevention programs.
  • More education is needed to help patients understand the underlying causes of NCDs, when to seek medical care, the treatment options available to them, and, at times, the chronic nature of their condition and the necessity for long-term care.
  • Stigma can also be a significant barrier to patients accessing care, particularly for diseases like cancer that are perceived as being “untreatable,” in part because it is often detected too late.
  • In some locations, particularly where specialist care is unavailable, health care workers may also need additional education to identify or appropriately treat NCDs.
  • When health care workers are able to diagnose and refer patients with NCDs, they may still lack the necessary resources and medications to manage these diseases.
  • In many cases, Community Health Workers (CHWs) who are providing treatment and education around infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, are also responsible for increasing awareness about NCDs and helping patients manage these conditions.
  • A more robust and integrated health care delivery system is vital to addressing these challenges in the long term, but significant questions remain about how further awareness can be drawn to NCDs, how NCD care should be prioritized by governments in resource-limited settings, as well as the role NGOs may be able to play in providing this care.

Specific cases:

Key Resources:

Expand the GHDonline Knowledge Base:
Please consider replying to this discussion with:

  • Suggestions for how governments and organizations can prioritize and integrate NCD care into existing health care delivery systems
  • Resources for training physicians, nurses and CHWs to identify and treat NCDs
  • Strategies for combating stigma associated with NCDs

Download: 12_22_11_Challenges_of_Treating_ENCDs_in_LRS.pdf (91.8 KB)