COVID-19 and Chronic disease

23 Mar 2020
Christine Hancock

COVID-19 and Chronic disease

Just 2 weeks ago we at C3 were moving forward with a fairly packed agenda of innovative ideas to prevent chronic (non-communicable) disease or NCDs: particularly through our events programme including the Wellbeing Forum, our work with nurses, and the 15 economically disadvantaged areas in Europe where CHESS, our community engagement programme, was ready to be rolled out.  All that work relies on physical contact and is temporarily on hold.  While we all worry about the impact of the virus on our friends and families we will also take the time to reflect on our work.

Each morning the news tells us the alarming death statistics: 55 yesterday on Sunday [1].  However, on average almost 1,500 people in the UK die each day [2], mainly of NCDs. However, this is not a macabre competition and careful listening to the news from each country tells us that most people who have died have had underlying health problems.[3]  Many news commentators have expanded on this to say hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  These are, of course, the leading chronic diseases (NCDs) that can be largely prevented or delayed by addressing the main risk factors, especially smoking and lack of physical activity as well as what we eat and drink.

In amongst the fear and distress, the NCD community must be wondering at the speed and ease with which governments around the world have seized upon the seriousness of the COVID 19 epidemic, listened to the evidence (although not always perfect) and brought in stringent remedies using the media and behaviour science.  We should reflect on ways to build on this for the maximum health benefit of all.

So, what of C3 Collaborating for Health?  In many ways we are fortunate….”working from home” has been our norm with two colleagues who live in North America, now joined by our 3 interns who were sent back to the USA last week by their university.  We have money in the bank for the various projects agreed and funded and are looking at how much can be delivered online.  Most of our staff work part-time with us and part-time for others, although their other income is suddenly  less secure.  C3’s priority is still to engage with those disadvantaged communities, where people may be less comfortable working online, but some of this work has to be on hold for now.  There are also longer-term things to consider.  For instance, as an economist, I’ve been looking into the idea of a basic income for all.  This would have saved the personal hardship and the sudden scrambling together of systems to help the most vulnerable.

Meanwhile we hope our colleagues around the world come through this pandemic with the health and strength needed to continue the slower and difficult challenge of NCDs. C3 is definitely open for business and our business is helping people to find ways to lead healthy lives.



  2. Office for National Statistics
  3. A paper published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology looked at 72,314 confirmed, suspected, clinically diagnosed, and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in China as of 11th of February 2020 and found that individuals with cardiovascular disease are the most likely to die from complications caused by Covid19, followed by patients with  diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and hypertension.


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash