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News Article

Closing the CNCD Care Gap Exacerbated by COVID-19

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Wed, 08/31/2022 - 17:07
 

The public health crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic diverted traditional health priorities and scarce resources, devastating Mexico’s already fragile healthcare system. This shift undermined the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD). As economies overcome the acute phase of the outbreak, industry experts expect a wave of attributable mortality rates associated with the discontinued treatment of these diseases. As health experts aim to bridge the gap, the continued synergy between public and private institutions, financial investment and technology applications is fundamental. 

“The COVID-19 arrived in Mexico at a time when the country had the worst health index indicators of all thirty-eight OECD members. That is, Mexico is the country with the least investment in health per capita, highest mortality rate, greatest proclivity towards diabetes, obesity, low rate of practitioners and many more”, said Olga Martínez Montañez, Regulatory Coordinator and Direction of Economic and Social Benefits, IMSS. 

Mexico’s National Health Plan 2019-2024 cites chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs, in particular cancer and cardio-metabolic diseases, as the greatest challenge for the country’s healthcare system. Due to their magnitude, great impact on premature mortality, quality of life and the high treatment costs associated with treating these diseases and their complications. Underrunning their prevalence is the limited and inequitable access to health services, which disproportionately affects marginalized, vulnerable and often discriminated groups. Mexico also faces a cultural prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle choices, high rates of multidimensional poverty among its aging population and an institutional emphasis on corrective actions instead of prevention. Moreover, most of these trends were magnified during the pandemic, compounding to present the public and private health sector with a sizable challenge. 

“During the COVID-19 there was a loss of roughly 20 percent of consultations related to diabetes and hypertension resulting in the patients deteriorating health, according to data from IMSS. This trend was reflected in other detection and diagnosis consultations that will likely lead to a wave of CNCD cases in the following years if we fail to address the gaps created,” said Fernanda González Lara, Life Sciences Consultants, INCMNSZ

 

Public-Private Synergy

The sector and its players are beginning to pivot away from a complete, undivided focus on COVID-19. For example, FunSalud is working to “strengthen Mexico’s public-private partnership through its first ever agreement to address hospital reconversion, allowing people not suffering from symptoms related to COVID-19 to receive medical attention and, while woefully insufficient at a macro level, it is a step in the right direction,” said Santiago March, Health Technologies Coordinator, FunSalud. On the other side of the coin, the foundation also wants to facilitate the transmission of the private sector’s four Ps model–prevention, predictive, personalized and participatory healthcare–to Mexico’s public sector, most importantly its first two levels of patient care. This model is at the root of the most successful and efficient healthcare systems in developed nations, added March.

The observed inter-collaboration of all public and private institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic outlined the productive capacity that can be achieved when these parties come together. “To address this sizable gap and increase efficiencies, public and private investment will be fundamental to produce higher quality, cost-effective care,” said Patrick Devlyn, President of the Health Commission, CCE. This is especially relevant in a public healthcare system that demands greater out-of-pocket costs that, during the pandemic, pushed millions into debt and poverty. 

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, almost 1 billion people were spending more than 10 percent of their household budget on health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank. “This is not acceptable, especially since the poorest people are hit hardest. Within a constrained fiscal space, governments will have to make tough choices to protect and increase health budgets,” he added.

 

Technology
As indicated by the digital transformation that came on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology will play a central role in combating the foreshadowed wave of CNCDs to come. Currently, technology is moving much faster than the health sector’s ability to understand and implement it effectively. Premised on this fact, a large portion of immediate financing will have to be directed towards both the purchase of new technologies and the education of operating personnel as well. “The good news is that most of the technologies and digital solutions in the market have the potential to address many of the existing challenges aforementioned: however, their adoption is moving much slower than anticipated due to their needed adaptability to the Mexican context,” said Gonzalez Lara. Consequently, Mexican health personnel need to take initiative to understand these technologies like AI and ML so that they can use and directly inform subsequent iterations of products and services as needed by Mexican patients.

 
Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst