Noncommunicable diseases: a major public health and development challenge
Almost two-thirds of deaths worldwide are due to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Four main NCDs account for the majority of these deaths: cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes.
These four main categories of chronic NCDs share common modifiable behavioral risk factors, including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol – all of which can be particularly hard to tackle and present a formidable challenge to governments and health systems globally. This challenge is greater in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where resources are already overstretched, where affected communities can be hard to reach, and where local context may be very different from that in which a policy or intervention to tackle NCDs has proven to be effective.
The knowledge - action gap
Despite robust scientific evidence on NCD prevention and control, a significant knowledge-to-action gap remains. Understanding how to implement interventions effectively is vital in developing ambitious national responses in order to meet the NCD-related targets included in the Global Action Plan and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Implementation challenges emerge when efforts are made to translate evidence into practice in a different context, where the original research did not occur, or interventions are applied to a population that is vastly varied in demographics.
Hence, irrespective of the fact that cost-effective, life-saving interventions exist to confront many health challenges, particularly NCDs, there is a lack of evidence on how best to deliver those interventions across a full range of existing health systems and diverse populations. The failure to optimize proven interventions and effectively implement them may have devastating consequences resulting in the unnecessary loss of lives and increasing the premature death toll from NCDs. Implementation research can help close these gaps and ensure effective implementation of policies and interventions in various contexts.