The impact of poverty reduction and development interventions on non-communicable diseases and their behavioural risk factors in low and lower-middle income countries: A systematic review

Jessie Pullar, Luke Allen, Nick Townsend, Julianne Williams, Charlie Foster, Nia Roberts, Mike Rayner, Bente Mikkelsen, Francesco Branca, Kremlin Wickramasinghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (SciVal)


INTRODUCTION: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) disproportionately affect low- and lower-middle income countries (LLMICs) where 80% of global NCD related deaths occur. LLMICs are the primary focus of interventions to address development and poverty indicators. We aimed to synthesise the evidence of these interventions' impact on the four primary NCDs (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) and their common behavioural risk factors (unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use).

METHODS: We systematically searched four online databases (Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Global Health) for primary research conducted in LLMICS, published between January 1st 1990 and February 15th 2016. Studies involved development or poverty interventions which reported on outcomes relating to NCDs. We extracted summary level data on study design, population, health outcomes and potential confounders.

RESULTS: From 6383 search results, 29 studies from 24 LLMICs published between 1999 and 2015 met our inclusion criteria. The quality of included studies was limited and heterogeneity of outcome measures required narrative synthesis. One study measured impact on NCD prevalence, one physical activity and 27 dietary components. The majority of papers (23), involved agricultural interventions. Primary outcome measures tended to focus on undernutrition. Intensive agricultural interventions were associated with improved calorie, vitamin, fruit and vegetable intake. However, positive impacts were reliant on participant's land ownership, infection status and limited in generalisability. Just three studies measured adult obesity; two indicated increased income and consequential food affordability had the potential to increase obesity. Overall, there was poor alignment between included studies outcome measures and the key policy options and objectives of the Global Action Plan on NCDs.

CONCLUSIONS: Though many interventions addressing poverty and development have great potential to impact on NCD prevalence and risk, most fail to measure or report these outcomes. Current evidence is limited to behavioural risk factors, namely diet and suggests a positive impact of agricultural-based food security programmes on dietary indicators. However, studies investigating the impact of improved income on obesity tend to show an increased risk. Embedding NCD impact evaluation into development programmes is crucial in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and the rapid epidemiological transitions facing LLMICs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0193378
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018


  • Developing Countries
  • Economic Development
  • Humans
  • Noncommunicable Diseases/epidemiology
  • Poverty
  • Risk Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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