Itâ€™s been some journey and now we are publishing our final research paper for the project, focusing on non-communicable diseases.
People often assume that infectious diseases like diarrhea, tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria and ebola are the biggest threats in the developing world. That is no longer true.
For the first time in history, more people in the developing world are dying from strokes and heart attacks than infectious diseases. Combined, these non-communicable diseases or NCDs â€“ cause almost two-thirds of all deaths in the developing world, about 23 million each year.
The good news is that there are tremendous ways to help, which could avoid up to five million premature (before age 70) deaths each year.
As reported in The Guardian, raising tobacco prices through taxation is one such intervention. There is good international evidence to show that increasing prices by 125% would cut consumption in half and save 2.5m lives per year. Every dollar spent would give benefits valued at $22 and it would raise $2.5bn in revenue to spend on other health measures.
About a billion people, including 45% of African adults, suffer from high blood pressure, causing 9 million deaths per year. Fortunately, the cost of diagnosis and cheap hypertension medication for medium and high-risk patients would only be $500 million, or about $2.50 per person annually. This would avoid 770,000 premature deaths each year and every dollar invested would do $47 of good.
Additionally, one of the simplest ways to reduce high blood pressure is to lower salt intake. Reducing salt intake by 30% is reckoned to avoid 815,000 premature deaths. It would also be a great use of resources, paying back $39 for every dollar spent.
Non- Communicable Diseases
Target or Sub-target
Annual costs ($m)
Annual Benefits ($m)
Benefit for every dollar spent
Deaths avoided in 2030 (m)
By 2030, reduce premature death from non-communicable disease by 29% in LMICs
Provide aspirin to 75% of those suffering from acute myocardial infarction
Provide low-cost hypertension medication to 50% of medium-and-high risk patients
Reduce salt intake by 30%
Increase the price of tobacco by 125%
Provide preventive drug therapy to 70% of those at high risk of heart disease
Here, we present a perspective paper on non-communicable diseases written by Rachel Nugent, Clinical Associate Professor, Global Health at University of Washington; as part of our series focused on health targets for the post-2015 development agenda.
PhD and Adjunct Professor
President of Copenhagen Consensus Center
PS. The Post-2015 Consensus project brings together 60 teams of economists with NGOs, international agencies and businesses to identify the targets with the greatest benefit-to-cost ratio for the UN's post-2015 development goals. If you have questions about the project, send an email to Research Project Manager Brad Wong by replying to this email.