At the crossroads between Old and New health paradigms

Have you ever wondered what a map showing the colliding epidemics between infectious diseases and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in a population would look like? If your answer is “yes”, then look no further.

The NCD Asia Pacific Alliance together with International SOS, Umeå University, Gadjah Mada University, Freeport Public Health and Malaria Control, and the University of Tokyo , has created a new visualization technique which we have baptized as ” The multi-morbidity wheel”. The Multi-Morbidity Wheel is the first of its kind using a gene sequencing spatial distribution technique to highlight the interactions in cases between NCDs and infectious diseases within a given population.

Global malaria expert Professor Michael J Bangs commented “In a world also burdened by the high social and financial costs associated with NCD management and the massive negative effects on productively and society as a whole, we can ill-afford to attack these diseases independently from other ills such as infectious mosquito-borne diseases.  For efficiency sake alone, health should be viewed more holistically, a ‘multimorbidity’ as in the case of this study, to encompass all health burdens no matter if they are biologically correlated or directly related.   It serves little purpose to save someone from the ravages of a malaria infection, for example, to only see them succumb to a preventable NCD.”

Lead author of study Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez commented: “The work emphasises the fact that these two disease groups interact with each other constantly both from a health systems perspective as well as from a clinical perspective. Likewise, different stakeholders such as academics, NGOs, governments and private sector need to brought together to deliver effective solutions” Professor Nawi  Ng from the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University,  remarked “Using innovative new methods to visualise complex data enhances the value of information presented.”

As the globe still struggles in tackling the unfinished agenda of infectious disease, it is now faced with the growing tsunami that is NCDs. We hope this work will help policy makers, companies, academics, and health care providers understand that these two groups of diseases are not separate issues but ones that are interlinked and therefore should be tackled as such.

See the new BMC Public Health publication and Multi-Morbidity Wheel here: