COVID pandemic hits heart, diabetes, cancer care very badly

GENEVA - As the impacts of COVID 19 extend well beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself services for treatment of noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease,  and cancer have been badly hit, a WHO survey shows.

The COVID 19 response must therefore be inclusive of the health care needs of people living with noncommunicable diseases, said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

WHO conducted a rapid assessment of service delivery for NCDs during the COVID 19 pandemic with 155 countries submitting data.

More than half of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for treatment of hypertension, half for treatment of diabetes and related complications and 42 per cent for cancer treatment, and 31 per cent for cardiovascular emergencies.  Rehabilitation services have been disrupted in almost two-thirds of countries, the survey shows.

Pointing out that one of the main causes of NCDs is tobacco, Dr Tedros World No Tobacco Day focused on reaching young people to educate them on tobacco industry tactics used to manipulate them into using deadly products that kill 8 million people every year.

Even during this global pandemic, where we know tobacco puts users at a higher risk of severe disease and death, the tobacco and nicotine industry persist with their dangerous marketing tactics that aim to attract new users, he regretted.

We already know that people living with NCDs are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying from COVID 19, Dr Tedros said. At the same time, he said, many people living with noncommunicable diseases are no longer able to access the medicines that they need.

We all know that the pandemic has forced countries to make difficult choices about suspending some health services, he said.

Ensuring coordination and development of new ways to deliver care while limiting visits to health facilities is key to keeping people safe and ensuring health systems are not overburdened. This means using digital technologies to deliver some routine services remotely, and expanding the amount of medications delivered to the home.