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07 May 2024

Multi-billion productivity cost of head and neck cancer revealed

New research describes a $5.6 billion (USD) loss of productivity from head and neck cancer in India during 2022, emblematic of its rising economic impact throughout the world.

Cancer globally

In the first study of its kind, researchers from King’s and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) identified a $5.6 billion loss of productivity in India from head and neck cancer.

The study, led by Dr Arjun Singh from the TMC with technical support from the Institute of Cancer Policy at King’s, looked at the economic impact of premature mortality from head and neck cancer in India. Published in the journal Head & Neck, it found the multi-billion-pound cost of lost productivity equalled 0.18% of the country’s GDP.

Health economics research for cancer is crucial intelligence to help policy-makers plan priority interventions and to advocate for more resources for underfunded areas such as public health for cancer. India is a world leading place for this type of research which has global impact.”

Professor Richard Sullivan, Director, Institute of Cancer Policy and Co-Director of the Centre for Conflict & Health Research

Productivity was calculated by determining the loss of potential time and wages as a result of premature death before the Indian retirement age of 62. The monetary value of unpaid work, like housework, was taken from insurance and court documents and included in the cost to productivity. It is the first study of its kind to provide productivity losses by analysing prospective follow-up and survival data from patients with head and neck cancer.

These findings follow from previous research from the same team that calculated a $3.2 billion (USD) cost for the direct treatment of head and neck in India, over the next decade.

The authors note that this is part of a broader loss of productivity in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and other emerging economies) from premature cancer mortality, calculated at $40 billion over next decade.

According to the authors, the results show a clear need for India to invest more in programmes to support prevention and the early detection of head and neck cancer. In particular, a lack of ‘implementation science’ that seeks practical solutions to earlier detection in complex healthcare settings and public health programs against specific diseases such as head and neck cancer.

The publication is the latest in a decades-long collaboration of King’s researchers with the Tata Memorial Centre, and the National Cancer Grid of India across many areas of research and capacity building.

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Richard  Sullivan

Director, Institute of Cancer Policy and Co-Director of the Centre for Conflict & Health Research