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Pandemic is having “severe” impact on non-communicable disease care, WHO survey finds

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically curtailed the provision of health services for non-communicable diseases, says a survey of 155 countries by the World Health Organization conducted over three weeks in May.

In the survey poorer countries were the most likely to report disrupted services, but some 94% of responding countries had reassigned health ministry staff from work on NCDs to dealing with the pandemic. Hypertension treatment has been partially or completely disrupted in 53% of the countries surveyed, diabetes treatment in 49%, cancer treatment in 42%, and cardiovascular emergency responses in 31% of countries, the survey found.

In the Netherlands, new cancer diagnoses have fallen by 25% since the pandemic lockdown began. In rural India, 30% fewer cardiac emergencies reached health facilities in March 2020 than the previous year.

Rehabilitation services, which are often key to a healthy recovery after severe COVID-19, have been disrupted in 63% of countries surveyed. Screening campaigns have been put on hold in more than half.

WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “The results of this survey confirm what we’ve been hearing from countries for a number of weeks now. Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19.”

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Source: BMJ, 3 June 2020

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