COVID-19 Deals Chronic Disease Patients a Double Blow

A new study conducted by the University of New South Wales has discovered that right now is the most dangerous time for individuals with NCDs (noncommunicable diseases) such as cardiovascular conditions, respiratory problems, cancer and diabetes — primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study found that individuals with NCDs were more likely to contract the virus and succumb to it, especially since their exposure to NCD risk factors such as unhealthy diets, social isolation and substance abuse has increased amid the pandemic.

The researchers also discovered that the coronavirus disrupted essential public health services, which many individuals who live with NCDs rely on to manage their conditions. The study, published in “Frontiers in Public Health,” examined the literature on the collaborative effect of COVID-19 on individuals with NCDs in middle-income and low-income countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Brazil. The study, which was a collaboration between public health researchers in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and UNSW, analyzed roughly 50 studies.

Uday Yadav, the lead author, stated that the interaction between COVID-19 and NCDs was vital to study as international data showed that coronavirus-related deaths were disproportionately high among people with noncommunicable diseases. He added that this finding illustrated the negative effect of the coronavirus syndemic or a synergistic epidemic. This term describes the interrelationship between the various socio-ecological and biological factors behind NCDs and COVID-19.

In order to determine the effect of the future pandemics and the coronavirus on individuals with noncommunicable diseases, the researchers analyzed the data through a syndemic lens. Yadav notes that the coronavirus syndemic will persist, just as noncommunicable diseases affect individuals in the long term.

Yadav also explained that NCDs occurred as a result of a combination of behavioral, environmental, physiological and genetic factors. He noted that it was therefore no surprise that the exposure of patients with noncommunicable diseases to NCD risk factors had grown during the pandemic. This made them more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus due to the syndemic interaction between socio-ecological and biological factors.

He added that the evidence the researchers analyzed indicated poor self-management of NCDs at a community level. The research findings were used to recommend strategies for the health-care sector that would help better manage individuals with NCDs in light of the coronavirus syndemic.

One point Yadav noted was the need to invest in a preventative health-care system, which would not only lead to a decline in the occurrence of noncommunicable diseases but also reduce health-care costs in the long run and strengthen resilience against future pandemics.

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