Launch of the NCD Investment Case for the Russian Federation: Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases as a catalyst of economic growth and social well-being in Russia

Scaling up efforts on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can avert over 4.3 million deaths and yield RUB 8.1 trillion (USD 105 billion) in economic benefits in Russia over the next 15 years – suggest the results of a recent analysis by WHO and UNDP under the United Nations Interagency Task Force on NCDs. These immense benefits can be achieved through investment in five proven and cost-effective intervention packages recommended by WHO to address the major NCD risk factors.

The analysis, presented at the 4th All-Russia Forum on Public Health, highlighted that NCDs exert a significant economic, social, and sustainable development toll on the Russian Federation every year. NCDs are the leading cause of mortality and disability and are accountable for 87% of all deaths in the country. It is estimated that an average person in Russia has a 25% risk of dying prematurely (i.e. before the age of 70) from one of the four main NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. In 2016, 1 635 000 people in Russia died from NCDs while still in their prime productive years. The effects of such losses go far beyond the health sector and hinder Russia’s broader development priorities of increasing human capital, reducing poverty and inequality and strengthening inclusive economic growth. The investment case report shows that in 2018 alone, NCDs cost the Russian economy around 3.9% of GDP, with 86% of all costs stemming from indirect losses linked to premature mortality and reduced productivity of workers.

However, most of the socio-economic damage from NCDs is preventable. The results of the analysis show that by scaling up the national NCD response, the Russian Government can continue to improve the situation in the country.

The analysis assessed five cost-effective intervention packages within the Russian Federation: four policy packages to reduce the prevalence of behavioural risk factors for NCDs – tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physicalinactivity, and excessive salt consumption – and one clinical intervention package to address cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The results show that implementation of these packages can significantly reduce the burden of NCDs and increase people’s well-being and quality of life while also accelerating economic growth. The return on investment is expected to far exceed the required costs and be as high as 50-fold over a 15-year period in the case of some interventions. In addition to these returns, the Government can expect to receive revenues from increasing taxes on health harming products – tobacco, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol – which is part of the recommended intervention packages.

“Economic growth, equity, demographic security – nearly all facets of sustainable development are affected by the NCD burden in Russia. These investment case findings – and the real progress made to date – confirm that Russia is on the right path, but the pace needs to be increased to meet the 2030 targets.” Dudley Tarlton, Programme Specialist, Health and Development, UNDP

The analysis conducted by the WHO/UNDP joint programme under the UN NCD Task Force can be used to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and promote a whole-of-government, comprehensive approach to tackling NCDs in Russia. It takes into account the country’s institutional and social context and contains a diverse range of compelling evidence-based arguments that could be used to appeal to a broad range of stakeholders, both in the public and the private space.

The Government of Russia has already demonstrated strong commitment to strengthening the prevention and control of NCDs, and the Ministry of Health’s strategic goals under Presidential Decree No. 204 of 2018 include several NCD-related priorities. The Russian Federation also supports other countries in their efforts to tackle NCDs, for example through the WHO/UNDP joint programme on catalyzing multisectoral action on NCDs.

“The Russian Federation continues to demonstrate outstanding leadership on the prevention and control of NCDs at national, regional, and global levels. We are happy that the comprehensive analysis conducted by UNIATF can inform Russia’s continued multisectoral and multistakeholder efforts to address NCDs and other health-related SDGs.”  Dr Svetlana Akselrod, Director, Global NCD Platform, WHO

The analysis prepared by the Task Force confirms the importance of such commitment and advocates for further scale up of Russia’s national NCD response to improve health and wellbeing of millions of Russian people while enhancing economic growth and prosperity for millions more.

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