The total direct and indirect cost of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the GCC is expected to touch $36 billion in 2013 and is forecast to reach $68 billion by 2022, according to a Booz & Company report.
Rapid economic advances in the GCC have led to its population enjoying a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn has resulted in a rise of NCDs such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
According to the report, NCDs impose a huge economic cost on the population as their gradual development negatively affects an individual’s quality of life, diminishing his/her ability to contribute economically and drains healthcare resources.
“More significant is the indirect economic penalty that NCDs impose,” said Jad Bitar, a partner with Booz & Company.
“From a national perspective, NCDs reduce life expectancy, which means less output. Chronic illness and shorter life spans deplete the quality and quantity of the work force.”
Apart from the human costs, NCDs tend to be detrimental to the economy when taken in consideration with healthcare expenditure.
“The burden is greater, and clearly less sustainable, when the total cost of NCDs is compared to healthcare spending,” said Gabriel Chahine, a partner with Booz & Company.
“In 2013, the five top NCDs in the GCC will impose an economic penalty equivalent to close to one and a half times all six of the governments’ healthcare budgets.”
The economic burden per capita for GCC countries is also set to soar with estimated economic burden per capita in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to be $516 and $2,001 respectively.
However the per capita costs are expected to increase by 2022 with Saudi and Qatar recording $758 and $2,778 respectively. The lowest economic burden per capita is estimated to be in Oman, the report said.
“With risk factors growing and healthcare budgets already under strain, GCC governments need to sound the alarm within their societies and embark upon national programs to stem the NCD epidemic,” said Bitar.
GCC staff healthcare costs are also the highest in the EMEA, according to a study by Mercer.
Recently Dubai passed a law that stipulated all employers in the emirate must provide health insurance schemes for their employees.
The law comes into effect next year, and it is expected to take three years for the emirate’s entire population to be covered. Currently, only a third of the city’s population of three million people is insured.