Non-communicable diseases cost nearly RM9b annually in productivity losses, says Health DG

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, cost the Malaysian economy upwards of RM8.91bil, equivalent to about 0.65% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), says Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Quoting a new report from the Health Ministry (MOH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), he said the economic cost was estimated from productivity losses due to absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), and the premature death of the working age population in Malaysia.

"Aside from productivity losses, NCDs also place a serious health burden on countries resulting from disability and loss of healthy life years, called the burden of disease costs.

"This is an intangible cost that is estimated to be around RM100.79bil, equivalent to 7.35% of GDP, ” he said in a joint statement with WHO on Tuesday (Sept 8).

The report released Tuesday, titled “The Impact of Noncommunicable Diseases and Their Risk Factors on Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product”, was based on data from 2017.

Dr Noor Hisham also said the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 shows that the prevalence of NCDs in the country continues to rise.

Meanwhile, WHO Representative in Malaysia Dr Lo Ying-Ru said NCDs are often associated with healthcare costs, but evidence such as this report shows how NCDs hamper the social and economic development of the country as well.

"Every disability and premature death from non-communicable diseases is tragic because we know that they are preventable.

"If we are unable to manage NCDs in the country, it will result in significant impact on health and the economy. We need a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach so we can turn the tide on NCDs and save lives and livelihoods, ” he said.

According to the report, unhealthy diet contributed to about two-thirds (68.9%) of the cost of lost productivity due to premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) while tobacco use contributed to more than one-third (36.9%) of losses.

Tobacco use also contributed to the highest proportion of the losses from cancer (15%).

WHO member states recognises the importance of tackling NCDs to achieve sustainable development, thus the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development called for the reduction of premature mortality from NCDs by one-third through preventive and control measures.

The Malaysian government has taken on this challenge by implementing the National Strategic Plan for Non-Communicable Disease 2016-2025 as well as associated national strategies and plans aimed at reducing the risk factors for NCDs.

“Malaysia has shown highest level of political commitment by creating a Cabinet Committee on a Health Promoting Environment to support the whole-of-government response to tackle NCDs.

“While we are working hard to address NCDs at its roots, clearly much more needs to be done, ” the joint statement said.

The public can submit comments on The Impact of Noncommunicable Diseases and Their Risk Factors on Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product to MOH and WHO until Oct 1 at – Bernama

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