The UN general assembly summit in September helped focus the world on the threat posed to economic development by four conditions – cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease. This is surprisingly true even in a middle income country like South Africa (SA). The economic impact of chronic conditions on the workforce and their productivity, and the cost to the health system is already enormous and without serious attention is set to balloon. The advent of significant resources to address this burgeoning epidemic seems unlikely. In an era when donor funding is shrinking, the envelope for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) could even decline as the SA government assumes greater fiscal responsibility for HIV/TB. This article discusses the burden of disease and disability in SA, the risk factors for NCDs in the country, possible interventions and the affordability.
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