Since COVID-19 first reached Europe in early 2020, the political landscape has been dominated by the urgency of controlling the spread of the virus. But are we neglecting the concurrent epidemic of underlying conditions that has made our populations so vulnerable to infection?
Reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on our societies is a core pillar of economic and social sustainability. NCDs are the leading cause of death and disability around the world, accounting for 86% of premature deaths in Europe. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 focuses on reducing mortality from NCDs by a third by 2030.
Despite policy commitments to address NCDs, progress has been slow in the past decade – and the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered it further. Three quarters of European countries have reported disruptions to NCD services as a result of the pandemic, and the impact of such disruptions is already being felt by people living with NCDs.
As governments work to recover from the pandemic, it is fundamental that they take the opportunity to curb the impact of NCDs. This will require an integrated approach across all policies in health, social care, education and beyond. Targeted investment and proper integration of care are essential to ensure the sustainability of our health systems.