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Publication date: 
September 1, 2015


The amount of international aid given to address non-communicable diseases is minimal. Most of it is directed to wealthier countries and focuses on the prevention of unhealthy lifestyles. Explanations for the current direction of non-communicable disease aid include that these are diseases of affluence that benefit from substantial research and development into their treatment in high-income countries and are better addressed through domestic tax and policy measures to reduce risk factor prevalence than through aid programs. This study assessed these justifications. First, we examined the relationships among premature adult mortality, defined as the probability that a person who has lived to the age of 15 will die before the age of 60 from non-communicable diseases; the major risk factors for these diseases; and country wealth. Second, we compared non-communicable and communicable diseases prevalent in poor and wealthy countries alike, and their respective links to economic development. Last, we examined the respective roles that wealth and risk prevention have played in countries that achieved substantial reductions in premature mortality from non-communicable diseases. Our results support greater investment in cost-effective non-communicable disease preventive care and treatment in poorer countries and a higher priority for reducing key risk factors, particularly tobacco use.


Bollyky TJ, Templin T, Andridge C, Dieleman JL. Understanding the relationships between non-communicable diseases, unhealthy lifestyles, and country wealth. Health Affairs. 2015 Sep; 34(9):1464-1471. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0343.