Fundamental discoveries in medicine of the last century have made it possible to make a breakthrough in treating a large number of diseases, particularly of an infectious nature. It also increased the availability and quality of medical care and the people’s overall life expectancy (Koutsouris, 2017). However, rapid urbanization, the aging of the population, and the popularization of unhealthy lifestyles have led to another equally severe problem (Michel, 2020). That is the widespread prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases. Chronic non-communicable diseases represent a considerable obstacle to global health (Heller et al., 2019). In addition to their economic impact on families and communities, they also lead to premature death, significant disruption, and loss of quality of life.
Their prevention has long gone beyond the scope of health care, and broad international cooperation is needed to resolve this issue. The challenge is to work together to create an environment that makes disease prevention easily accessible (Schouw et al., 2018). In other words, on the one hand, people themselves must understand what the risk factors lead to. On the other hand, a preventive environment must be created to maintain a healthy lifestyle easily. However, it seems that precautionary measures may not be enough to address this global health issue.
However, this paper proposes such a way to solve the problem as investing in medical research aimed at finding ways to prevent the emergence and further spread of non-communicable diseases. In most countries, insufficient funds are allocated from the budget for medical research in the indicated area, which should be changed (Ebi et al., 2016). The investment will enable more testing and experimentation to be carried out, accelerating the discovery of solutions to the detrimental health effects of non-communicable diseases.
Non-communicable diseases, their prevention, and control remain the strategic directions of health care in all countries. This is due to the significant current and future negative impact of these diseases on the socio-economic growth of nations, regardless of their geographic location, levels of economic development, and incomes of the population. They (NCDs) confidently hold the leading position in mortality globally, accounting for 71% of worldwide deaths (World Health Organization, 2021). These diseases already disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, where about 77% of all NCD deaths occur, or 28 million (World Health Organization, 2021). In this regard, strategic directions for preventing and controlling NCDs are among the priorities. Possible solutions are discussed at many international organizations’ conferences, forums, and workshops. Among NCDs, defined by the World Health Organization (2021) as long-term and generally slowly progressive, four main types account for 80% of premature deaths. They include cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
NCDs threaten progress towards the Eight UN Millennium Development Goals and post-2015 activities. The rapid rise in the burden of these diseases is projected to significantly impede the implementation of poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries as household health expenditures rise (World Health Organization, 2021). Socially unprotected people are more likely to get sick and die earlier than people with higher social status (World Health Organization, 2021). It mainly happens because they are at higher risk of exposure to harmful foods such as tobacco or unhealthy foods and have limited access to health services.
In resource-limited settings, the cost of treating cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or chronic lung disease can quickly drain family resources and plunge families into poverty. The prohibitive costs associated with NCDs, including often lengthy and costly treatment and loss of breadwinners, trap millions yearly (Subramanian et al., 2018). In many countries, adverse alcohol consumption and hurtful diets and lifestyles occur in both high and low-income groups (World Health Organization, 2021). However, high-income groups have access to services and drugs that protect them from the most increased risks, while for low-income groups, such medicines and services are often not affordable.
It is now generally accepted that the widespread prevalence of chronic diseases is mainly due to lifestyle characteristics and associated risk factors. Lifestyle modifications can prevent or slow the progression of the disease, both before and after the onset of clinical symptoms (Budreviciute et al., 2020). The concept of risk factors is the scientific basis for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases. The root causes of these diseases are unknown; they are multifactorial. However, primarily due to epidemiological studies, factors have been identified that contribute to their development and progression.
The main reason for the occurrence of non-communicable diseases is non-compliance with the norms of a healthy lifestyle. Among the main reasons are:
- A high level of stress on the nervous system;
- Low physical activity;
- Inadequate nutrition;
- Smoking, alcohol, and drug use.
According to medical statistics, all these factors contribute to reducing human life expectancy (World Health Organization, 2021). When forming a healthy lifestyle, it is necessary to consider many individual factors. This is primarily heredity, namely, features of physical development, particular inclinations, a predisposition to some diseases, and other genetic factors.
Alcohol abuse causes mental and somatic disorders; the cardiovascular system suffers greatly. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy develops (arrhythmias, expansion of all heart chambers, decreased cardiac output) and arterial hypertension (Maisch, 2016). Nutrition plays a role at every stage of a person’s life. Smoking causes 3.5 million deaths worldwide yearly, equating to approximately 10,000 deaths per day (Roser, 2021). Tobacco promotes caries and inflammation of the oral cavity, disrupts blood clotting, and suppresses the immune system.
Nutrition plays a role at every stage of a person’s life. Good nutrition is necessary for children as a building material. For adults, food is essential to avoid developing many diseases and maintain health. An excess of saturated fat in food causes lipid metabolism disorders, which are risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis (DiNicolantonio & O’Keefe, 2018). A lack of vitamins and trace elements in food leads to increased metabolic disorders that develop due to this deficiency (Mehri, 2020). Currently, the link between nutrition and the development of major chronic non-communicable diseases has been scientifically proven. Against the background of neuro-emotional overstrain, excessive nutrition and physical inactivity often lead to obesity. It is one of the main risk factors for arterial hypertension and coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, gout, and several other chronic non-infectious diseases (Jiang et al., 2016). Correcting all significant risk factors is the optimal approach to reducing the risk of developing chronic non-communicable diseases.
International experience in preventing and controlling NCDs proves that there are effective measures to tackle risk factors. The basis for action is the analysis and evaluation of the steps taken in several European countries and the recommendations developed based on the principles of evidence. The first factor to look out for is the habitat; it must be conducive to human health (Prüss-Ustün et al., 2019). Any person should be provided with the opportunity to contact a healthcare professional at any time. The right to participate in decision-making and control their health should also be guaranteed. What is cost-effective is a combination of interventions targeting the general population and those at high risk of illness. There is medical, and scientific evidence to support the importance of prevention (Budreviciute et al., 2020; World Health Organization, 2021). Population-based prevention is the most cost-effective option for achieving significant improvements in population health for NCDs and in a short timeframe.
The Industrial Revolution has led to the development of many new technologies, including those in the healthcare sector. Since people now live longer, there is an increase in chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, and the cardiovascular system (Cao et al., 2018). Equal access to health services is what enhances the stability of the state. However, in conditions of inequality, people express dissatisfaction because they do not feel they are taken care of. According to the experts’ conclusions, people worldwide die precisely because of social injustice – poor living conditions affect their health (World Health Organization, 2018). Nowadays, it is not about bacteria, biological factors, or transmissible diseases as it was in the past. About a billion people live in slums, contributing to poor health. The solution proposed in this paper is to increase private and public investment in the health sector. This will help maintain and expand the current research volume and improve the world’s overall health.
Lack of funding leads to a shortage of personnel, an increased burden on doctors and nurses, and, most importantly, inequality in access to quality health care in different regions. The poorer the area, the more difficult it is to get free medical care and the fewer opportunities to solve the problem by contacting private clinics (Powell, 2016). Together, these factors contribute to the increased mortality of citizens. The health of the working-age population is a matter of safety and prosperity for every country. Therefore, the countries’ leaders should be concerned about the growing processes of early chronicity of various pathologies. It seems that the mere implementation of preventive measures is not enough to overcome this emerging global health issue. Thus, structural changes are needed in the legislative regulation of health care and medical research.
The pandemic has become another essential factor demonstrating the relevance of investing in the medical sector and has expanded the range of challenges to be addressed worldwide. The demand has grown for medical organizations for remote monitoring of patients and the transfer of advanced technologies (Cowie & Lam, 2021). However, even before the pandemic, the medical industry was one of the most attractive areas for investment. The powerful technological advancement of medicine attracts companies from different sectors: banks, IT giants, and retailers also invest in medical technologies. Thus, the inflow of investments stimulates new developments and solutions for diagnostics, treatment, and improving the quality of life (Bertram et al., 2019). Indeed, not all countries of the world have conditions for private investment. Still, in this case, it is possible to use the positive experience of other countries where this process is being implemented with sufficient efficiency.
Proponents of spending cuts argue that the funds are unlikely to be spent effectively. They say that no matter how much is given, it will still not be enough for healthcare, as if it is impossible to keep up with modern science, which makes examinations and treatment more and more expensive. However, such ideas should be considered false since the studies show that it is possible to profit from investing in medical research within a year (Grant & Buxton, 2018; The Academy of Medical Studies, 2018). It will indeed be more challenging to regulate how funds are spent in corrupt countries, but private investment should be considered a possible alternative.
Opponents of such an idea of investments in healthcare can express themselves as follows. They will say that it is clear that health is vital; it is a fundamental human right. There are other inalienable rights – the right to education, the environment, justice, freedom, and national security. Indeed, sick patients value health most of all, but healthy people also understand the importance of other things. Unfortunately, the increase in the cost of medical services in the last years of patients’ lives (Amadeo, 2021), combined with an obsession with unique medical technologies, makes people forget about the actual reasons for health and wellness. In many Western countries, liberal individualism and a lack of confidence in the state make it impossible for health systems to change.
However, health is still a natural, absolute and lasting value in life, which occupies the upper step on the hierarchical ladder of values. It is also in the lead in importance among other key categories of human existence. These include interests and ideals, harmony, beauty, meaning and happiness, creative work, and life rhythm. As the population’s well-being grows and its primary natural needs (for food, housing, etc.) are satisfied, the relative value of health will increase more and more. Indeed, prevention is a critical factor in ensuring good health, but without government assistance, it will be much more difficult for people to follow the principles of a healthy lifestyle (Mozaffarian et al., 2018). Moreover, medical research centers should not be expected to function better if it is not invested.
On the contrary, the flow of funds drives research that can help people with non-communicable diseases in the future. Most likely, the western developed countries’ representatives adhere to this position, according to which health is not a top priority. It is hard for them to understand what it is like when the state and private medical organizations cannot provide their minimum needs, which leads to sick people’s premature death. Moreover, here again, distrust of the state based on, for example, the revealed corruption of its actions should not become a reason for refusing to increase its health care financing. Here again, the solution to the problem may be to attract private investment.
As with any investment, it is necessary to study supply and demand. People must ensure that investing in this project or idea will bring the declared profit and the described benefits. Each country is interested in supporting the health of its population, and therefore a favorable investment climate remains in this area. Investing in the medical field brings tremendous social benefits since the quality of life of people will be significantly improved (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Therefore, the argument that such investments do not guarantee results or are ineffective should be considered dubious.
It is necessary to financially ensure the continuous functioning of the reserve of laboratory capacities, materials and storage facilities. Public structures capable of quickly deploying a network of centers to mass screen the population or risk groups and diagnose non-communicable diseases should be created and maintained. The potential reserve of hospital beds and intensive care units through public-private investment opportunities should also be increased. It is necessary to legislatively regulate the countries’ budgets to increase the expenditure on health care. It is also required to ensure the possibility of private financing, which can be done by adjusting the countries’ legal framework.
By increasing investment in health research projects, drug development and testing conditions should be improved. It is necessary to develop a program for reforming the health care system in favor of introducing a financing model that can ensure the constitutional rights of citizens to health care, medical care, and equal opportunities worldwide. It is also intended to increase funding for basic research in the health care system while simultaneously increasing the competitiveness in the allocation of funds and improving methods for assessing their effectiveness. However, the steps being taken will have to be carried out in conjunction with the already ongoing preventive programs aimed at reducing the impact on the human body of harmful factors.
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