Volume 35

Settling for Less? An Analysis of the Use of Settlement Agreements to Mitigate Non-Communicable Diseases

by Kayla Ahmed

There is a pressing need to address the rise of non-communicable diseases worldwide. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the number one cause of death in the United States and account for 71% of all deaths globally. Some of the most common NCDs include heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. The World Health Organization has identified four primary risk factors for NCDs including (1) tobacco use, (2) physical inactivity, (3) alcohol use, and (4) unhealthy diets. NCDs have devastating health consequences for individuals as well as damaging non-health consequences worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum, NCDs present a severe threat to world development by “driving up healthcare costs, disabling workers, and imposing debilitating financial burdens on households.” Due to the significant harms posed by NCDs, it is imperative that there be action to alleviate their prevalence. NCDs, as stated by David Peters, the Chair of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “once were considered diseases of the rich.” NCDs were previously thought of as diseases of the rich because of their previous prominence in developed nations.  However, today, research shows that poverty increases the risk of death and disability from NCDs and that NCDs increase the risk of falling into poverty. Industries known to perpetuate the rise in NCD rates include Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, and Big Food. In the United States, individuals living below the poverty line have higher rates of tobacco use than the general population and individuals living in low income homes are more likely to purchase less healthful foods. With the high prevalence of NCD risk factors among low-income individuals, it is clear that NCDs should no longer be thought of as diseases of the rich. Therefore, addressing the rise of NCDs is imperative to promote health equity.


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