The extensive media coverage of the Ebola outbreak in Africa might lead one to conclude that communicable diseases are the most pressing health issue globally. However, one should not ignore the significant impact that non-communicable diseases have in both developing and developed countries. Each year, non-communicable diseases, from heart disease to mental ill-health, lead to 36 million deaths and trillions of dollars in lost economic output each year. The toll—in both economic and health terms—of mental illness is often under-acknowledged. Although one in four people will require mental health care at some point, most countries allocate less than 3% of their health budget to mental health treatment. In low and middle-income countries, where the health care infrastructure is weak, up to 85% of those suffering from severe mental illnesses go entirely untreated. One sign of progress, however, was the announcement in October that India intends to provide universal mental health services. Although the availability of adequate funding remains uncertain, if the plan is able to deliver affordable, high-quality services for all, it might spur other nations, both rich and poor, to action.
Bodes well for the future