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Noncommunicable diseases now leading global killers: WHO

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Sep 22, 2022 - 12:24 PM

GENEVA (AA) – Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and lung disease now outnumber infectious diseases as the top killers globally, the World Health Organization said in a new report on Wednesday.

NCDs are responsible for 17 million premature deaths yearly, according to the UN health agency.

“This report is a reminder of the true scale of the threat posed by NCDs and their risk factors,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said as he launched the report and called on global leaders to take urgent action on 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.”

NCDs are one of this century’s greatest health and development challenges, the WHO report said.

The four major NCDs – cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases – along with mental health, cause nearly three-quarters of deaths worldwide and kill 41 million people yearly, it said.

The WHO has also launched a portal that lists latest data, risk factors, and policies for 194 countries.

In 2019, 17 million people died of NCDs before the age of 70, with 86% of these deaths occurring in lower to middle-income countries, the report said.

“Whatever age you are, the chance of dying from an NCD is higher if you live in a lower-income country than if you live in a higher-income country,” read the report.

“The tragedy is that NCDs are often preventable, and millions of people could avoid years of poor health and live longer, healthier, happier lives within their families and communities.”

These lead to biological risk factors: raised blood pressure (hypertension), overweight and obesity increased blood glucose, and raised cholesterol.

Air pollution is also a significant risk factor. All these contribute to the development of one or more of the four major NCDs, said the report.

“Many millions more are living with at least one NCD, which can reduce quality of life for years. The broader scope of noncommunicable conditions also includes mental health and liver and kidney diseases,” the report added.

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