United Nations: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer may cost the Indian economy $6.2 trillion in the 2012-2030 period, according to a report by the WHO and the UN.
The Global Report on Urban Health warns of the spread of such diseases in rapidly urbanising countries like India and China. It states that increasing urbanisation poses a unique set of health challenges, and that the lifestyles and working patterns of urban residents have the potential to fuel an increase in NCDs.
According to the report, during 2012 – 2030, the cost of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and mental health conditions will be approximately $27.8 trillion for China and $6.2 trillion for India.
For India the break-up of this total cost is as follows: $2.25 trillion for cardiovascular diseases, the same for diabetes, and $2.28 trillion for mental health.
In China and India, cardiovascular disease and mental health conditions present the greatest economic threats, followed by respiratory diseases and cancer.
China’s losses exceed those of India, as the impact of lost labour and physical capital is greater in higher-income countries.
The report states that the key barrier in upgrading and maintaining cities in India is “political.”
It elaborates that at one end, at the state government level, there is political resistance to empowering towns and cities with a statutory urban local government that could articulate and deliver their demand for infrastructure and services.
At the other end, rural local governments are reluctant to “go urban” because local politicians see more funds coming their way through rural development schemes.
The challenges of urbanisation
According to the report, between 2014 and 2050, China is expected to add an additional 292 million people to its cities, and India 404 million. Inadequate planning for the inevitable increase in urbanisation in India is creating a socially and environmentally unsustainable situation, the report says.
Cities are also becoming more motorised and the annual number of new cars sold has increased from 39 million in the 1990s to 63 million in 2012.
Worldwide five years ago, there were an estimated billion motor vehicles. In another 20 years, this number is estimated to go up to 1.6 billion, and by 2050, to 2.1 billion. Most of the increase will be in Asian countries, especially China and India.
Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and Joan Clos, UN-Habitat Executive Director, state in the report that in cities, the progress in health depends not only on the strength of health systems, but also on shaping urban environments.
With nearly four billion people living in cities and this population growing, there is an urgent need to address health disparities and identify creative ways to ensure universal health coverage.