New Relief For Chronic Diseases

Program addresses an often-overlooked problem: noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs, in regions hit by disaster, other challenges.

Sustainability|Jun.21, 2019

For most people, it’s easy to take day-to-day activities and access to support networks and needed services for granted. But what happens if extreme forces beyond our control destroy that security?

Natural disasters, conflict and other emergencies force families in affected regions to face enormous, unexpected challenges. To help, governments, organizations and companies put a strong focus on meeting their urgent needs for food, water and shelter. But in the aftermath of crisis, many people struggle with managing, or preventing, chronic diseases – also known as noncommunicable diseases, or NCDs such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Despite a significant need for uninterrupted care, chronic diseases often don't receive enough attention in these humanitarian settings, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Working together with the global humanitarian organization CARE and our foundation the Abbott Fund, we're launching one of the world's first programs aimed at filling this gap – creating a new model for the effective prevention and care of NCDs in challenging settings around the world.

This work is especially important in a place like Marawi City, Philippines. Two years after an armed conflict in 2017 between government forces and militant groups, large numbers of people remain uprooted from their homes, communities and access to care, with some living in evacuation sites and others living in transitory shelters or with relatives.

The new three-year program aims to fight NCDs in Marawi City and surrounding areas, with a focus on helping people affected by diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Program work includes screening to identify people with NCDs and those at risk of developing NCDs, and expanding access to needed clinical care either within or outside the camps. Nurses and other healthcare providers will be trained to lead "NCD Clubs" to advance disease prevention and management, and the program will aim to strengthen the ability of local healthcare systems to manage NCDs. In addition, an advocacy campaign will raise awareness and educate on the prevention and control of NCDs.

"Addressing noncommunicable diseases remains a neglected area in humanitarian response," said CARE USA President and CEO Michelle Nunn. "CARE is well-positioned to fill the void, and we are confident that our partnership with Abbott and the Abbott Fund will produce key learnings for the global emergency response and development community. We expect the engagement of women, in particular, will be critical to the project’s success."

"Through our partnership with CARE, we hope to improve the lives of people affected by noncommunicable diseases in Marawi, and to establish a new model for the effective prevention and care of chronic diseases in these challenging settings globally," said Melissa Brotz, vice president, Global Marketing and External Affairs, Abbott, and president, the Abbott Fund.

The partnership combines CARE’s strengths in community mobilization, systems strengthening and women’s empowerment with Abbott’s expertise in health technology, including donated diabetes meters and test strips to advance disease management, and an investment of $1 million from the Abbott Fund.

For more information on the partnership, see the news release.

The Impact of NCDs

Noncommunicable diseases, also known as NCDs, include chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease. According to the WHO, NCDs account for 40 million, or 71 percent, of deaths globally.  However, they receive less than 2 percent of donor funding for global health.

Diabetes and hypertension are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, Philippines, according to the Integrated Public Health Office in Lanao del Sur. A significant percentage of internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to be exposed to NCD risks such as unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. The Department of Health reports that one out of every three Filipinos dies before the age of 70 from NCDs.