$68bn health bill warning for GCC
Manama, December 13, 2013
GCC countries could face a $68 billion health bill in the next nine years if people don't start leading healthier lifestyles, according to a report.
Global consulting firm Booz and Company says increasingly inactive lifestyles in the Gulf mean non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have now reached "epidemic levels", reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Rapid economic advances and people adopting more sedentary lifestyles, with little or no exercise, have been blamed for a surge in cardiovascular illnesses, cancer and respiratory diseases in the Gulf.
NCDs are now the leading cause of death in the GCC and will place a $68 billion burden on GCC healthcare and labour systems by 2022, according to the Booz and Company study.
The company is now urging governments to develop long-term and short-term agendas at both the national and GCC level to address the problem "before the epidemic imposes a heavy toll on their societies".
"The economic development of GCC countries has brought with it significant cost - a rising incidence of diseases associated with lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet," the firm warns.
"In little over a generation, GCC countries have improved their standards of living from developing country levels to those of advanced economies.
"Non-communicable diseases have been linked to developed economy lifestyles, namely bad eating habits, high-sugar and fat-heavy diets and a lack of physical exercise.
"The result is that NCDs have become the leading cause of death and disability, thus making the GCC one of the region's worst affected by the global increase in chronic diseases."
Booz and Company estimates that NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, will cause over one-third of all deaths globally by 2030.
It estimates the cost to GCC countries will be around $36 billion by the end of this year, rising to $68 billion by 2022.
The figures are based on estimated healthcare costs and the effect that absenteeism due to illness will have on labour markets.
Booz and Company is recommending GCC governments to tackle the problem by addressing risk factors involved in people developing chronic illnesses - including tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
"With risk factors growing and healthcare budgets already under strain, GCC governments need to sound the alarm within their societies and embark upon national programmes to stem the NCD epidemic," it said.
"GCC countries therefore need to urgently factor chronic diseases into their long-term health planning and they should aim for a better quality of life for residents, a reduction in unnecessary medical costs and improved productivity." – TradeArabia News Service