Winning the global fight against NCDs

It’s a sobering statistic. Forty one million deaths every year – 71 per cent of total deaths worldwide – can be attributed to a category of diseases that, in some cases, are preventable. Their name? Non-Communicable Diseases, or NCDs – diseases that are not passed from one person to another, but develop due to risk factors like genetics, external environment, or a person’s lifestyle and behaviours.

Despite significant medical advancements in the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions, NCDs, which include cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, mental health conditions and diabetes continue to be the leading causes of death and disability globally.

The category of diseases has adverse impacts across both age and geographic region: more than a third of the 41 million deaths attributed to NCDs globally each year are premature, and nearly 85 per cent of these are seen in emerging markets.

In stark terms, the overall figure for NCD-related deaths for Emerging Markets is one premature death every two seconds. In the Middle East, NCDs such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease, are most prevalent.

These statistics highlight the scale of the challenge the world faces: from the direct human toll to the immense strain this puts on health systems and economic development. Despite such significant implications, a raft of innovative ways to raise awareness of these preventable diseases are starting to take root.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs can be reduced by as much as 25 per cent by 2025. From quitting smoking to getting more exercise, or adopting a healthier diet, day-to-day human behaviour and lifestyle habits play a vital role in preventing and treating NCDs, with lifestyle playing a crucial role in the management and prevention of most chronic diseases.

Part of raising awareness comes with partnerships – both the traditional, and the unusual.

“The battle against NCDs requires all of us,” says Menassie Taddese, President Upjohn, Emerging Markets. “At Upjohn, we believe partnerships are important as they enable various stakeholders to co-create innovative solutions that lead to disruptive change. In this regard, our overarching aim is to drive pro-patient policies and improve patient access that ultimately leads to improved patient outcomes.”

Inspired by the heritage of a company known for its pioneering science, Upjohn is a division of Pfizer with experience-proven therapies in the areas of cardiovascular diseases, pain, urology, psychiatry, and other NCDs.

With a goal of reaching 225 million new patients by 2025, Upjohn now serves more than 100 markets and has a network of eight dedicated manufacturing sites poised to relieve the burden of non-communicable chronic diseases by providing trusted, quality health solutions.

Its solutions require meaningful partnerships that improve patient access and outcomes through various measures – some of them unconventional.

One of these is an NCD Academy, a partnership with American College of Cardiology (ACC). The academy provides online courses in disease prevention and screening that may be completed anytime, anywhere from a mobile device. Set to premiere later this year with a course in cardiovascular disease, there are plans to add courses in cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental disorders.

The programme will be open-access to reach providers in low- and middle-income countries where the NCD burden has accelerated the fastest and countermeasures are most needed.

Another innovative solution is “Health Matters with Dr. Adam”, a campaign that aims to lessen the gap on healthcare literacy and drive public awareness across three core areas: health, wellness and happiness.

The campaign, which was done in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and Emirates airline, is an animated series featuring the “ILL Family”: Bill, Jill, Phill & Will and Dr Adam and his team of experts, Dr. Sol, Dr. Aisha and the wise Professor John, who deals with the family’s many health problems and queries. The characters were introduced to Emirates’ 60 million passengers through the airline’s award-winning inflight entertainment platform, ice, with the initial seven episodes focusing on blood pressure, diabetes, happiness, smoking, high-cholesterol, cardiovascular health, and pain.

Upjohn provided all the medical content, facts and scripts for the episodes, with the research carried out by trusted medical experts and the majority of content stemming from mainstream, peer-reviewed journals and articles. All content was then reviewed and approved by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention.

This campaign aimed to increase attention and focus on promoting healthy lifestyles, dealing with underlying determinants of health, and early detection and treatment of health problems. All, they say, are all key in managing chronic illnesses.

“By collaborating with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, industries and focus areas, we are able to have impact along the entire patient journey,” concludes Chandrashekhar Potkar, Chief Medical Officer, Upjohn Emerging Markets.

“We must continue to engage all stakeholders to ensure we capture the voice of patients, healthcare providers, government officials, and others. This will help ensure we are developing programmes that truly provide holistic healthcare solutions.”