Non-communicable diseases and development: Future Pathways

From a biomedical perspective, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are not a new problem, particularly in the global North. However, awareness of the increasing burden from these conditions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is only recently emerging in the arena of development policy and practice (Beaglehole et al., 2011).

In September 2011, the United Nations convened a summit on NCDs, only the second such meeting ever to address a disease matter. However, despite a declaration reiterating the importance of NCDs, few concrete actions emerged. The reality is that NCDs are a development problem and one to be taken seriously for the post-MDG agenda. Indeed, a failure to do so could reverse existing development gains and widen the inequalities between those who can or cannot cushion themselves against the effects (Stuckler et al., 2010).

As the world is faced with demographic shifts and ageing and urbanising populations, future projections seem grim. NCDs are also a source of growing political pressure on governments to address the risk that the majority of households face of having to bear a big financial burden when a family member falls seriously ill. Furthermore, from a policy point of view, the situation has become too urgent to bracket this as largely a health sector issue.

A reframing of the problem as one requiring development attention could hold a key to mobilising greater political will. If a different kind of evidence emphasising the broader nature of the challenges is considered beside public health data, this could stimulate creative thinking and connect policy options from across traditionally distinct domains.

Project aims

This project aims to address the need for fresh policy on NCDs in LMICs that is genuinely cross-sectoral and integrates responses at different levels. The work will gather evidence in four thematic domains (health, social protection, governance and agri-food business), through combining a cross-country review of existing policy responses with an investigative case study approach.

Each case study is thus linked to a specific thematic domain and will commence with an investigation of key issues with reference to a particular country. However, the programme of work in the respective thematic domains will include a cross country analysis comparing policy strategies in selected countries.

Three Foresight ‘brainstorming’ sessions will bring together members of the project team with a range of thematic expertise across development studies, as well as experience in different policy sectors. Foresight approaches will be drawn upon to identify trends and future scenarios for LMICs with respect to NCDs, and to catalyse thinking around new policy options.

Key contact

Photo of Hayley MacGregor

T: +44 (0)1273 915676


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Photo of Gerry Bloom, Research Fellow of the Knowledge Technology and Society team

T: +44 (0)1273 915667


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Photo of Keetie Roelen, Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Protection, IDS

T: +44 (0)1273 915824


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Photo of Linda Waldman, KNOTS Research Fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915685


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Photo of Nick Nisbett, IDS Research Fellow in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction team

T: +44 (0)1273 915839


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Photo of Spencer Henson, Globalisation Research Fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915691


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Responding to the Threat of Nutrition-related Non-communicable Disease

IDS Policy Briefing 65 (2014)
Knezovich, J. and MacGregor, H.
Project Dates:
August 2012 - August 2017
Project Status:
Department for International Development (DFID)
Research Themes / Programmes: