‘77% die from NCDs’

Former adviser on NCD Dr Isimeli Tukana. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

Seventy-Seven per cent of deaths in Fiji are related to a non-communicable disease (NCD), says a United Nations (UN) Pacific Socio- Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in Fiji.

According to the report, NCDs also drove premature (under 70 years of age) deaths in the country.

The report said looking at NCDs mortality rates, 34 per cent of deaths were because of cardiovascular diseases, 9 per cent because of cancer, 5 per cent because of chronic respiratory diseases and 22 per cent caused by diabetes.

“Previous research has found that since 2000, populations with lower socioeconomic status are at an elevated risk of developing NCDs mainly diabetes, stroke, heart attack and cancer.

Poorer and less educated people are suffering from NCDs more than economically secure populations.

High-fat, low-fibre foods are usually cheaper than healthier alternatives, thus making them more likely to be purchased by people of lower socio-economic status.

“There is a direct correlation with lower levels of education, and lower educational achievement in younger years leading to greater NCD susceptibility in adulthood.”

The report highlighted that the prevalence of NCDs may also increase through losses in income specifically, with the prevalence of diabetes shown to be higher in low-income households.

The report stated that an immediate increase of between 0.38 and 1.28 per cent prevalence in diabetes was recorded post-COVID-19, while the prevalence may still rise to between 0.21 and 0.98 per cent by the end of 2020.

“In 2021, current analysis predicts an increase of between 0.11 and 0.63 per cent, and between 0 and 0.3 per cent in 2022.”

The report stated that by the end of 2020, the total prevalence of diabetes could, in the worst-case scenario, be at 30.3 per cent of Fiji’s population, thus 0.3 percentage points above pre-COVID-19 levels.

“This may raise healthcare costs for the country significantly, as NCDs require expensive treatment, surgeries and medication, while adding to a country’s economic burden by cutting productive lives short.”

The report also highlighted that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Fiji had already reached crisis levels of the NCD burden before COVID-19 and it was critical to mitigate COVID-19’s impact in this matter both for health and economic reasons.

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