The global pandemic we aren’t talking about
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 71% of annual global deaths, most of these in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and are estimated to cost $47 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Chronic underinvestment in prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment, and rehabilitation has contributed to an escalating NCD burden. Much of this burden is being exacerbated by COVID-19, which is disrupting essential public healthcare services and placing people living with NCDs at a higher risk of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19.
There is a need to escalate the global community’s efforts in addressing the NCD challenges
In 2015, world leaders committed to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030. In 2017, the World Health Assembly endorsed a set of “Best Buys” and other recommended interventions for the prevention and treatment of NCDs. Global estimates suggest that investing in these “Best Buys” yields a return of at least $7 for every $1 invested by 2030, equating to $350bn in economic growth between 2018 and 2030. The initial gains made in the early 2000s have been foregone as the annual decline of the risk of dying from a major NCD between the ages of 30 and 70 has been slowing since 2010. WHO progress data from 2020 show that only half of all countries are fully meeting 2 out of the 10 target indicators.
There is a need for greater action, especially in LMICs that bear the greatest burden and have the least resources to deal with the escalating health and economic burden of NCDs.
Engaging health consumers can unlock much-needed resources in the fight against NCDs
Over the last two decades, a democratization of technological advances has helped evolve health consumers from passive recipients of services to active, health-seeking co-owners of their health and wellness decisions. Reaching health consumers directly via mass media and public health awareness campaigns is an important tool and has been identified by the WHO as a “Best Buy” in the fight against NCDs.
Dr. YOU is a public health awareness platform and our attempt to address the health seeking and information needs of consumers in LMICs. The platform will reach consumers interested in healthcare information to make meaningful decisions in their health and wellness behaviours. Built around a core of “Best Buy” intervention themes like the use of tobacco and alcohol, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets, the Dr. YOU platform will aim to educate and nudge behavior change amongst users around the key NCDs.
Dr. YOU’s initial focus will be on health consumers below the age of 50 for four main reasons:
- Consumers below the age of 50 have reported low levels of disease awareness.
- This target group neither typically focuses on self-healthcare nor on NCDs.
- Given that most patient journeys begin long before the point of access into health systems, early awareness of risk factors and nudges for preventive health behaviors can prevent or delay the onset of NCDs.
- Users in this target group across the LMICs are most comfortable with digital platforms, with over 91% reporting the usage of social media platforms. This highlights how the mobile internet can become a key facilitator for shift of public services and for access to information.
Our ambition is to support health consumers in LMICs, who are most at risk of NCDs in the next decade, with preventive health behaviors, leading to early diagnosis and slow disease progression. We are building partnerships with a variety of organizations interested and aligned with this critical challenge of our times. Dr. YOU looks forward to your support in the form of feedback on our platform, interest in exploring partnerships, or in finding opportunities to contribute resources to our goals. Informed and empowered consumers can unlock a new category of health worker in our fight against NCDs, the pandemic that we all will need to unite and fight against.
Dr. YOU launched on Medium and Instagram in November 2020.