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    Non-communicable Diseases Emerge as ‘Top Killers Globally’ – WHO

    HealthHealth PolicyNon-communicable Diseases Emerge as ‘Top Killers Globally’ – WHO
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    Non-communicable Diseases Emerge as ‘Top Killers Globally’ – WHO

    Authors of the report say that every two seconds, one person under the age of 70 dies of a non-communicable diseases – such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Almost nine in 10 of those deaths are taking place in low- and middle-income countries. 

    Non-communicable diseases or NCDs constitute one of the greatest health and development challenges of this century, the WHO says. Together, NCDs account for nearly three-quarters of deaths in the world, taking 41 million lives every year – outnumbering infectious diseases as the “top killers globally,” with one person under 70 dying every two seconds from an NCD.

    The WHO report says that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – chief among them, cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases – as well as mental health illnesses, cause nearly three-quarters of deaths in the world. Their drivers are social, environmental, commercial and genetic, and their presence is global. Every year 17 million people under the age of 70 die of NCDs, and 86 per cent of them live in low- and middle-income countries.

    The report, Invisible numbers: The true extent of noncommunicable diseases and what to do about them, highlights NCDs statistics to illustrate the true scale of the threats and risk factors they pose.

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    The authors of the report say that every two seconds, one person under the age of 70 dies of a noncommunicable diseases – such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Almost nine in 10 of those deaths are taking place in low- and middle-income countries.

    Eliminating tobacco, harmful alcohol and unhealthy diets could prevent or delay NCD-related illnesses health and premature deaths, the report says.

    Disturbing statistics

    Against an 18 per cent global probability of premature mortality from NCDs, Papua New Guinea and the Central African Republic lead with 36 per cent of their population susceptible to deaths due to NCDs.

    Corresponding figures for SouthAsian countries vary – from a high of 35 per cent in Afghanistan to a healthy 19 per cent in Bangladesh. Against the probability of 22 per cent for India and Nepal, Pakistan has a probability of 29 per cent.

    As a region, SouthAsia is most vulnerable to deaths due to chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs). SouthAsian countries, individually, fall in the highest bracket of deaths due to chronic respiratory diseases, with Indians being most vulnerable to dying of CRDs.

    113 of 100,000 Indians die breathing bad air, compared to 100 in Myanmar and 99 in Pakistan. Globally, Papua New Guinea leads with 178 deaths due to chronic respiratory diseases, followed by India.

    Sharing the latest country-specific data, risk factors and policy implementation for 194 countries, the NCD data portal brings the numbers in the report to life.

    Moreover, it allows data exploration on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases along with their main drivers and risk factors, which include tobacco, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol and lack of physical activity.

    The portal spotlights patterns and trends throughout countries and allows comparison across nations and/or within geographical regions.

    SDG targets

    To date, only a handful of countries are on track to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reducing early deaths from NCDs by a third.

    And yet, NCDs are at the heart of sustainable development and their prevention and treatment is a prime opportunity for investment that would have myriad impacts on economic growth, far outweighing the money spent. This major public health shift has gone largely unnoticed over the last decades.

    “It is a misconception” that they are “diseases of high-income countries”, said Bente Mikkelsen, WHO’s Director of Non-communicable Diseased, adding that a full 85 per cent of all premature deaths happen in low and middle-income countries.

    At a critical juncture for public health, WHO said that the new information offers a chance to address the issue and recommends spending more on prevention.

    Investing $18 billion a year across all low and middle-income countries could generate net economic benefits of $2.7 trillion by 2030.

    “As we continue to respond to this pandemic and prepare for the next, we have seen the critical importance of addressing a major risk factor in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths – non-communicable diseases,” said Michael Bloomberg, the WHO global ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries.

    He maintained that they can often be prevented with investment in “proven, cost-effective interventions” and looked forward to continuing to make “life-saving investments in NCD and injury prevention” alongside WHO.

     

    Image: Marcel Crozet / ILO Photo

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