Like the Hindu deity Krishna, I was born with blue skin. My body bruised at the trauma of simply being held. And so the family arranged for a ritual to appease the gods. Haemophilia is a genetic blood disorder that makes it very hard for the body to stop bleeding. If your haemophilia is severe like mine, you bleed spontaneously, without an injury or known cause. A handshake once took me to A&E.
To stop bleeding, you need clotting injections. In much of the developing world, these injections are available only to the chosen few. Multinational corporations, such as Pfizer and Baxter, make money selling drugs at high prices in low-income countries.
In India, clotting injections cost £100 or more for one (and one is never enough). With the near absence of a welfare state, you can understand why my family requested divine intervention when I was born.
A common condition
The human toll of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is huge and rising. These illnesses end the lives of approximately 41 million of the 56 million people who die every year – and three quarters of them are in the developing world.
NCDs are simply that; unlike, say, a virus, you can’t catch them. Instead, they are caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. The main types are cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – heart attacks and stroke. Approximately 80% are preventable, and all are on the rise, spreading inexorably around the world as ageing populations and lifestyles pushed by economic growth and urbanisation make being unhealthy a global phenomenon.
NCDs, once seen as illnesses of the wealthy, now have a grip on the poor. Disease, disability and death are perfectly designed to create and widen inequality – and being poor makes it less likely you will be diagnosed accurately or treated.
Investment in tackling these common and chronic conditions that kill 71% of us is incredibly low, while the cost to families, economies and communities is staggeringly high.
In low-income countries NCDs – typically slow and debilitating illnesses – are seeing a fraction of the money needed being invested or donated. Attention remains focused on the threats from communicable diseases, yet cancer death rates …….