Diabetes, heart disease among worldwide health killers


Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) now exceed infectious diseases as the “top killers globally”, with one person in 70 dying every two seconds from an NCD, said the United Nations health agency in a new report, released on Wednesday 21 September 2022. These diseases constitute one of the greatest health and development challenges of this century, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chief among them are cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke; cancer; and diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as mental health illnesses. Statistics show that they account for nearly three-quarters of deaths in the world, taking 41 million lives every year.

According to the report, Invisible Numbers: The true extent of noncommunicable diseases and what to do about them, NCDs statistics show the threats and risks of NCDs. “There are cost-effective and globally applicable NCD interventions that every country, no matter its income level, can and should be using and benefitting from – saving lives and saving money”, said WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This report is a reminder of the true scale of the threat posed by NCDs and their risk factors”, he added.

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. 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.

Eliminating tobacco, harmful alcohol and unhealthy diets could prevent or delay NCD-related illnesses, health and premature deaths. 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. “It is a misconception” that they are “diseases of high-income countries”, said Bente Mikkelsen, WHO’s director of noncommunicable diseases, 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. The WHO chief called on global leaders to take urgent action on NCDs, at an event hosted in New York at which the appointment of Michael Bloomberg as WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries was renewed for two years – his third reappointment since 2016. “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 – noncommunicable diseases”, said Mr Bloomberg.

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.

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