According to a survey released by the World Health Organization (WHO), completed during a three-week period during May, COVID-19 is significantly impacting health services for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) globally, although low-income countries are most affected.
Of the 155 countries who participated, health services have been partially or completely disrupted in 53 per cent of countries for hypertension, 49 per cent for diabetes and diabetes-related complications, 42 per cent for cancer treatment, and 31 per cent for cardiovascular emergencies. Rehabilitation services have also been disturbed in 63 per cent of countries.
In 94 per cent of countries, staff NCDs services were partially or fully reassigned to support COVID-19 services.
A primary reason for discontinuing services was due to shortage of medicines, diagnostics and other technologies (20%).
“Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19,” said WHO Secretary-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Encouraging findings were that alternative strategies such as telemedicine have been established in most countries to support those at the highest risk.