When you look at graphs showing all NCDs lumped together, the trend becomes apparent: rates of NCDs are on the rise everywhere. But when you begin to parse the data, other trends emerge, for example, how differently these diseases affect various communities.
To better understand the effects, let’s isolate the data on three of the deadliest NCDs: heart disease, dementia, and lung cancer. Each disease can show a different aspect of measuring, preventing, and treating NCDs.
Access to Health Care Matters
The most common type of heart disease is ischemic heart disease, which is related to problems with the arteries that bring blood to the heart. It’s the number one cause of death around the world and often caused by other conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. The disease can also result from lifestyle characteristics such as a lack of physical activity or smoking.
Health researchers use a measure called the Socio-Demographic Index (SDI) to evaluate a country’s level of development. Countries are given a grade that shows their level of development based on factors such as overall income and education. High SDI countries include the United States, Australia, and Russia; low SDI countries are mostly in Africa. A few indexes grade countries like SDI does, but SDI is unique in that it doesn’t incorporate overall health as a factor. This exclusion makes SDI a useful tool for health researchers because with health taken out of the picture, they can compare different countries and find out which factors help good health outcomes and which ones hinder them.
This is important to understand, for example, when looking at the mortality rates for heart disease. Separating the countries by their SDI rankings makes it clear that heart disease mortality rates are decreasing in high SDI countries but increasing in the lower SDI countries.