n South African Medical Journal - Non-communicable diseases in South Africa : a challenge to economic development : guest editorial

Volume 104, Issue 10
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



The economic development of a nation depends in part on the health of its population. Addressing the non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic is critical to a virtuous cycle of improved public health outcomes and better economic growth. Decreasing premature mortality from NCDs is now on the post-2015 development agenda. The accumulated losses to South Africa (SA)'s gross domestic product between 2006 and 2015 from diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease alone are estimated to cost the country US$1.88 billion. Employers face additional costs in the form of high staff turnover and absenteeism, because these conditions are not only a source of morbidity but a leading cause of death in our working-age population. Obese workers cost their employers 49% more in paid time off than their non-obese colleagues. Workplace wellness programmes are growing and show promise, but the urban poor, who are particularly vulnerable, have little access to them. Families of the deceased suffer catastrophic costs, with two-thirds of poor households being underinsured against funeral costs, and are dependent on either a regular wage earner or a grant recipient. The NCD epidemic in SA is an even greater burden because it is occurring concurrently with an ageing HIV-positive population.

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