The Swedish and Norwegian governments have announced increased funding to support the response to the growing non-communicable disease (NCD) burden in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) announced a landmark partnership with the NCD Alliance for a total of 15,000,000 SEK ($1.6 million) to support the response to NCDs in LMICs. The partnership is a part of Sweden’s strategy for global development cooperation in sustainable social development. The strategy has the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG 3 at its core.

The Norwegian government announced a contribution of an additional $133 million (1.2 billion NOK) to reduce the burden of NCDs in LMICs from 2020 to 2024. Last year Norway introduced the Better Health, Better Life strategy to tackle the growing NCD burden in LMICs.

The Norwegian assistance will help fund activities around its three-point strategy:

  1. Strengthening primary health care;
  2. prevention targeting leading risk factors for NCDs, such as air pollution, tobacco and alcohol consumption, as well as unhealthy diets; and
  3. strengthening health information systems and other global public goods for health. 

Growing NCD burden and need for assistance in LMICs

  • NCDs cause 70% of all deaths worldwide, making them the leading cause of death and disability. 
  • NCDs are responsible for over two-thirds of deaths in LMICs.
  • NCDs will cost LMICs $7 trillion in economic losses over the next two decades.

Currently only about 1 to 2% of global health related assistance goes towards addressing NCDs. Despite the growing NCD burden in LMICs most donor countries remain focused on assistance for infectious diseases in LMICs. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the link between NCDs and infectious diseases –  where NCD conditions increase the risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, people living with NCDs are even more vulnerable all over the world, but particularly in LMICs,” said Anna Rosendahl, Head of the Unit for Global Social Development at Sida, as per NCD Alliance.

NCD prevention by addressing major risk factors like unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, and air pollution is crucially important.”

Anna Rosendahl, Head of the Unit for Global Social Development, Sida

LMICs have largely been left to address NCDs with whatever scarce resources they have. Large-scale global efforts have the potential to save millions of lives and contribute to healthier populations and economic growth in LMICs. The funding by Sweden and Norway will enable to strengthen the NCD response in these countries.

The NCD Alliance has commended Sweden and Norway for prioritizing NCD prevention within strategies to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, saying the countries are setting an important precedent for other OECD countries.

Prioritizing alcohol policy solutions in the LMIC NCD response

Alcohol use is one of the key risk factors for NCDs, connected to many of the NCDs including cardiovascular disease, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and mental health.

Various NCD investment cases in countries such as Armenia, Zambia and Russia have also found an alcohol control policy package to be cost effective in reducing NCDs in the long run.

Prioritizing alcohol policy in the NCD response will catalyze high-impact, cost-effective results in LMICs as evidence shows in countries where alcohol policy solutions have been developed and implemented. The WHO SAFER package for addressing alcohol harm and the three best buys of alcohol policy – increasing taxes, reducing alcohol availability and advertising bans – are key tools for LMIC governments to increase population health and promote sustainable human development.

Brought into sharp focus due to COVID-19, alcohol’s heavy burden on health systems has become a public health priority, even extending beyond NCDs, such fueling violence, road traffic fatalities, injuries, as well as other infectious diseases. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended reducing alcohol availability as measure to contain the spread of the virus, protect people’s health as much as possible and to protect health and emergency service capacities.


NCD Alliance: “Landmark partnership between Sida and the NCD Alliance will help to combat NCDs in LMICs

Health Policy Watch: “Norway Ramps Up Efforts Against Non-Communicable Diseases in Low-income Countries

Sweden: “Strategy for Sweden’s global development cooperation in sustainable social development 2018-2022

Norway: “Better Health. Better Lives

Research paper: “The Investment Case as a Mechanism for Addressing the NCD Burden