Insights from 10,000 Women on the Impact of NCDs

dianagosalvez Diana Gosálvez Prados last modified 20/02/2015 14:48

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the number one cause of death worldwide. The fight against NCDs is a challenge for developed and developing societies alike. Tobacco-use, pollution, the harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and lack of physical exercise, and mental-health-related diseases place a heavy burden on nations and communities across the world. As always, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are least resilient, and least able to cope with the impacts on households and their income that can be catastrophic. Families are hit hard – and it is primarily women who bear the consequences.

Insights from 10,000 Women on the Impact of NCDs. Naperville: Arogya World; 2015. Available at:



The rapid rise of chronic diseases, especially in developing countries, and the impact of the environment on health
and health security, are now being afforded greater attention on the global health agenda. Increasingly the world
is taking behavioural risk factors into account, including major causes of chronic disease, and promoting actions
targeting environmental and structural factors.

This report reminds us forcefully of the human face of the NCD toll. As in so many areas, it is a woman’s face. It
brings into sharp focus the reality that NCDs are the leading cause of death in women globally. It helps us to see
the breadth of NCDs’ impact on women and to understand that women have a crucial contribution to make in
finding and implementing sustainable solutions.

In this report the voices of 10,000 women tell us that NCDs are draining their household resources. For nearly
one in four women surveyed, some 25% of their household income goes to meeting the cost of NCDs. Four in
ten women have to pay out-of-pocket for health care to treat NCDs, and may have to borrow money from family
and friends to do so. This is a story about the ubiquity of NCDs, with almost two-thirds of the women surveyed
telling us how these diseases have become part of their lives, with at least one person in their household being
affected. It is a story of women as carers and the burden they bear, with half the women surveyed tending a
family member with an NCD, and two in ten saying their own economic opportunities were diminished as a
result. And it is a story of neglect, with women reporting difficulties in accessing health services and crucial
testing that could catch NCDs early or even prevent them. It is a salutary story of lack of access, inadequate
financing, and insufficient quality of services.

I whole-heartedly welcome this report, and the tireless global advocacy of Arogya World that has drawn on
the knowledge and power of women as agents of change. Their work clearly and constructively identifies the
linkages to nutrition and healthy lifestyles, and prioritizes prevention of NCDs at the same time as the expansion of
responses that address barriers to women’s health.

I applaud Arogya World for providing the space for 10,000 women to make this case so clearly and eloquently, and
commend this report to everyone concerned with global health, the struggle against NCDs, the rights of women
and girls, and overall human development.

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