Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Three in five people worldwide die from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular or chronic respiratory diseases. That makes noncommunicable diseases the world's number one killer. Poorer and socially disadvantaged sections of the population are more likely to contract and die earlier from such diseases than people who are better off. That is why the SDC supports prevention measures and promotes access to existing diagnostic methods in Switzerland's partner countries.

The SDC's focus

The SDC is working to improve healthcare systems in its partner countries to help them overcome the combined burden of poverty-related diseases (mother and child health, diseases caused by diet or infections) and noncommunicable diseases.

SDC-supported programmes prioritise the following:

  • health promotion and noncommunicable disease prevention as a cost-effective approach
  • early detection and diagnosis for everyone as an integral part of basic care
  • access to medicine and health technologies to fight and control noncommunicable diseases treating mental illness as a noncommunicable disease and integrating this heavily neglected area in Switzerland's development policy bilateral programmes.

The SDC's comprehensive approach includes bilateral programmes and projects alongside active participation in multilateral organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO plays a leading part in the organisation and coordination of international efforts to combat noncommunicable diseases.
In the area of mental health, the focus is on reforms to improve community-based psychiatric services and providing psychosocial support to people who have been through traumatic experiences. This includes women in the Great Lakes region of Africa who have experienced violence and young people affected by AIDS in southern Africa, for example.

Cancer, mental illness, diabetes, and cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic lung diseases or asthma, are noncommunicable diseases. The main risk factors are tobacco consumption, a lack of exercise, alcohol misuse and an unbalanced diet.
Noncommunicable diseases have a number of causes, which necessitates a comprehensive approach beyond the health sector in order to address the contributing social, economic and environmental factors.

Each year, 41 million people die from noncommunicable diseases, which accounts for 71% of all deaths worldwide. Of these, 85% are attributable to low and middle income countries. This means that noncommunicable diseases are not just an issue for affluent societies. In spite of this, only 2% of global health financing is allocated to noncommunicable diseases. Investing in the prevention and control of these diseases is vital. It would reduce the number of disease-related early deaths – goal 3 target 4 on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – by a third and help advance universal health coverage. The four main diseases – diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases – could be significantly reduced through cost-effective measures for prevention and health promotion, such as balanced diets, exercise and an environment that is less damaging to people's health.
In addition to its know-how and invaluable experience in health promotion, Switzerland also has an internationally renowned pharmaceuticals industry, which has already developed programmes to provide cheaper drugs. This is the type of private-sector development that the SDC systematically promotes.