Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases, have overtaken infectious diseases as the number one cause of death worldwide. The rise of these diseases is especially grave in Southeast Asia, where existing research however falls short on offering guidance on how policy can best prevent and control NCDs in the region. Additionally, low and middle-income countries in Southeast Asia cannot directly incorporate lessons drawn from interventions in richer countries, since health system capacities, human and financial resources are thoroughly different. Preventive interventions, thus, need to correspond to local capacities and require contextual solutions. In this article, we provide a systematic review of a wide scope of NCD interventions conducted in Southeast Asia to inform about existing intervention designs and to derive sound evidence of their effectiveness. Our literature search results in 51 studies from five Southeast Asian countries from which we can extract 204 estimates. We sort the studies into six intervention categories and analyze them with respect to 23 different health and behavioral outcomes. While we find positive and significant average effects across all six types of interventions, we also document evidence of substantial publication bias. Using a meta-regression approach in which we correct for the publication bias, we instead fail to confirm positive average effects for some interventions. Especially dietary and physical activity interventions fail to achieve improvements in analyzed health outcomes, while programs focusing on smoking cessation, on the take-up of preventive screening activities or educating patients on how to cope with NCDs achieve sizeable effects. We also present evidence that the size of the effect differs with the participants’ characteristics as well as with design features of the intervention. For local policy makers, the results provide important knowledge on how to address the increasing NCD burden in the coming years.
Fritz, M. and Frommel, H. (2021). How to Dampen the Surge of Non-Communicable Diseases in Southeast Asia: Insights from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Health Policy and Planning, czab138, https://doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czab138.