Convergence of non-communicable and infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries.


The convergence of non-communicable disease (NCD) and infectious disease (ID) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) presents new challenges and new opportunities to enact responsive changes in policy and research. Most LMICs have significant dual disease burdens of NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, and IDs including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and parasitic diseases. A combined strategy is needed in surveillance and disease control; yet, experts, institutions and policies that support prevention and control of these two overarching disease categories have limited interaction and alignment. NCDs and IDs share common features, such as long-term care needs and overlapping high-risk populations, and there are also notable direct interactions, such as the association between certain IDs and cancers, as well as evidence of increased susceptibility to IDs in individuals with NCDs. Enhanced simultaneous surveillance of NCD and ID comorbidity in LMIC populations would generate the empirical data needed to better understand the dual burden, and to target coordinated care. Where IDs and NCDs are endemic, focusing on vulnerable populations by strengthening social protections and improving access to health services is crucial, as is the re-alignment of efforts to combine NCD and ID screening, treatment programmes, and the assessment of their impact. Integrating public health activities for ID and NCD should extend beyond health care services to prevention, which is widely seen as crucial to successful NCD and ID control campaigns alike. The convergence of NCD and ID in LMICs has the potential to overstretch already strained health systems. With some LMICs now focused on major health system reforms, a unique opportunity is available to address NCD and ID challenges with newfound urgency and novel approaches.

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