A new study carried out by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, has stated that there has never been a more dangerous time for people with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) than these times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NCDs include diabetes, cancer, respiratory problems, or cardiovascular conditions.
The study noted that these people are more vulnerable to contracting and dying from Covid-19, while their exposure to NCD risk factors, such as substance abuse, social isolation, and unhealthy diets, has increased during the pandemic.
The researchers also found that Covid-19 has disrupted essential public health services that cater to people with NCDs to keep a tab on their condition.
For the study, the researchers reviewed over 50 studies on the synergistic impact of Covid-19 on people with NCDs in low- and middle-income countries such as Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
Lead author Uday Yadav, a Ph.D. candidate under Scientia Professor Mark Harris of UNSW Medicine, said: “This illustrates the negative effect of the Covid-19 ‘syndemic’ — also known as a synergistic epidemic.”
The synergistic epidemic is the aggregation of two or more concurrent disease clusters in a population, which exacerbates the prognosis and burden of disease.
He added: “We applied this term to describe the interrelationship between Covid-19 and the various biological and socio-ecological factors behind NCDs. So, people are familiar with Covid-19 as a pandemic, but we analysed it through a syndemic lens in order to determine the impact of both Covid-19 and future pandemics on people with NCDs.”
Yadav said the Covid-19 syndemic would persist, just as NCDs affected people in the long term.
“NCDs are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors and there is no quick fix, such as a vaccine or cure,” he said.
The researchers backed a few strategies to prevent the rise of the syndemic. These include the development of plans for health services to people with NCDs, and develop digital campaigns to disseminate information on how to self-manage NCDs and Covid-19.
The study also recommended decentralisation of healthcare delivery for people with NCDs, effective social and economic support for people with NCDs, and evaluation of technology-assisted medical interventions to improve healthcare services.