Globally, chronic diseases outpace other illnesses

As the name implies, communicable diseases (or infectious disease) are those that pass from person to person, or animal/insect to person. Examples are tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria or the common cold. A NONcommunicable disease isn’t transmitted in this way, and may result from lifestyle choices, heredity, environmental conditions or other factors.

A new report states that noncommunicable diseases are now the leading causes of death around the world. And, this cause of death is likely to keep rising.

REPORT: Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) killed 63% of the people who died worldwide in 2008, resulting in 36 million deaths. Nearly 80% of the NCD deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Four groups of diseases accounted for approximately 80% of all NCD deaths: cardiovascular diseases (17 million people annually), cancer (7.6 million), respiratory disease (4.2 million) and diabetes (1.3 million). These NCDs share four risk factors:

• physical inactivity

• harmful use of alcohol

• poor diet

COMMENT: “About 30% of people dying from NCDs in low- and middle-income countries are aged under 60 years and are in their most productive period of life. These premature deaths are all the more tragic because they are largely preventable,” explained Dr. Ala Alwan, World Health Organization Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

“This is a great loss, not just at an individual level, but also profoundly affects the family and a country’s workforce. For the millions struggling with poverty, a vicious circle ensues. Poverty contributes to NCDs and NCDs contribute to poverty. Unless the epidemic of NCDs is aggressively confronted, the global goal of reducing poverty will be difficult to achieve.”

SOURCE: World Health Organization, Global status report on noncommunicable diseases (April 27, 2011)

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