HumanInsight The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on service delivery for noncommunicable diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region
East Mediterr Health J. 2022 Jul 31;28(7):469-477. doi: 10.26719/emhj.22.053.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the delivery of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) services globally as health systems are overwhelmed by the response to the pandemic.
AIMS: The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean conducted an assessment to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on NCD-related services, programmes, funding and consideration of NCDs in COVID-19 response.
METHODS: Data were collected from countries of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) in mid-2020 through a web-based questionnaire on NCD services-related infrastructure, policies and plans, staffing, funding, NCD services disruptions and their causes, disruption mitigation strategies, data collection on comorbidity, surveillance, and suggestions for WHO technical guidance. The data were exported into Microsoft Excel and summarized. Countries were grouped according to socioeconomic level.
RESULTS: Nineteen of the 22 countries in the EMR responded: 95% had NCD staff reallocated to support their COVID-19 response. Lower-income countries were less likely to include NCDs in their pandemic response plans and more likely to report disruption of services. The most commonly disrupted services were hypertension management (10 countries 53%), dental care (10 countries 53%), rehabilitation (9 countries 47%), palliative care (9 countries 47%) and asthma management (9 countries 47%).
CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the continuity of NCD-related services in EMR countries. The ability to mitigate service disruptions varied noticeably between countries. The mitigation measures implemented included triaging of patients, novel NCD medicines supply chains and dispensing interventions, and the use of digital health and telemedicine. Guidance and support for systems resilience, preparedness and response to crises are recommended.
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