The double burden of non-communicable and infectious disease in Nepal


Nepal is currently facing a “double burden of disease”. While the incidence of most

infectious diseases is decreasing, emerging infectious diseases such as dengue fever,

scrub typhus, and influenza are on the rise. By 2040, mortality associated with

communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases is predicted to remain fairly

high at 12.47%. Simultaneously, the burden of noncommunicable diseases such as

diabetes and cancer is on the rise, particularly in urban areas.

There is a great deal of inequality among populations that experience this disease

burden. When Nepal’s Human Development Index is adjusted for inequality, it falls to

44%, below the South Asian average. These health inequalites are reflected in health

indicators such as life expectancy and maternal mortality. Social determinants of health

are defined as the material, social, political, and cultural conditions that influence health:

these factors are crucial for understanding risk and buden of disease and cannot be

excluded from considerations of public health policy and health interventions. Politics,

poverty, and educational and health literacy have been identified as three key

determinants of health in Nepal.

What are we doing at Polygeia?

This project aims to identify and quantify the social determinants most associated with

the double burden of non-communicable and infectious disease in Nepal using a

retrospective cross-sectional study of subnational routine data. Ultimately, our

researchers aim to make policy recommendations for how health interventions could

respond to better address the social factors influencing health. This includes identifying

gaps in Nepalese government policy and NGO interventions, as well as reviewing best

practice in settings with similar disease landscapes to inform future health policy. The

findings of this study will thus have important implications for understanding and

addressing health inequalities and the burden of disease affecting socioeconomically

disadvantaged populations in Nepal.

This blog post was prepared by members of the Polygeia Oxford Branch.