Access Challenges to NCD Medicines and Products

The Hidden Problem that Drives 100 Million People into Poverty.



By Kate Bunting and Helen McGuire

October 30, 2018


It’s widely cited that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension are the number one cause of death globally. What’s less discussed, however, are all the ways that NCDs perpetuate debilitating, long-term harm to almost every dimension of human progress.  Almost three-quarters of NCD-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where essential treatment is often unavailable and unaffordable to those in need.


This is the story that HelpAge and PATH are working together to tell. NCDs force 100 million people in Africa into poverty every year. It’s in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the impacts of NCDs are most damaging. And it’s in these regions of the world where policy change and direct investment to address the rise of NCDs is so severely lacking.


Global inaction has serious, wide-ranging repercussions. NCDs are a major barrier to economic growth. The World Economic forum estimates that NCDs result in $500 billion in economic losses every year. We’re talking about foregone income, budget-breaking health expenses, and impossible trade-offs—such as whether to buy medication or send a child to school. NCDs don’t just hurt those who have them. The burden of NCDs reverberates through families, communities, and economies.


They also affect people at every stage of life. NCDs are not just an issue for older people, even though chronic conditions account for 90% of the disease burden among people over 60 in LMICs. Diabetes, for example, affects children as well, and its prevalence is rising. In Africa, diabetes cases are projected to more than double from 14 million to 34 million by 2040, according to the International Diabetes Federation.


In our collaborative video project, Access to NCD Medicines and Products: A Critical Issue for Global Health, we bring you three stories of people whose daily lives are deeply affected by NCDs. Though they are of different ages and backgrounds, the one common thread through their stories is how access challenges to medicines and products affect their ability to live healthy, productive lives. In Access, you’ll see first-hand how transportation barriers, high medication costs, and stock-outs, among other issues, undercut the contributions of hard-working, everyday people.


These are not insurmountable barriers, though. Four decades after the 1978 Alma-Ata Health for All declaration, there is a renewed call for primary health care and universal health coverage with the ambition of leaving no one behind.  The time is now for governments, institutions, and the private sector to come together on making this goal a reality. We have the solutions to help people prevent and manage NCDs. Now it’s a matter of investing in health systems, infrastructure, and education programs to put them into place. Watch the video now and see why such measures are so integral to global health and economic growth.


Watch the Video


About HelpAge USA

HelpAge USA is the U.S. affiliate of HelpAge International, a global non-profit dedicated to promoting the well-being and inclusion of older people. In a time of unprecedented demographic change, HelpAge advocates for health systems and policies that meet the needs of an aging world. Our programs provide older people and their families with knowledge, resources, and services to manage their health such as screenings for non-communicable disease and eye exams to prevent blindness. To learn more about HelpAge programs as well as the health challenges of an aging world, visit


About PATH

PATH is a global organization that works to accelerate health equity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. With expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales solutions—including vaccines, drugs, devices, diagnostics, and innovative approaches to strengthening health systems worldwide.