Report: Deaths from Noncommunicable Disease Rising

In 2008, 36.1 million people died from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, cancer, and diabetes. Nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Deaths from noncommunicable disease worldwide are on the rise, according to a recent World Health Organization report, Global status report on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

In 2008, 36.1 million people died from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, cancer, and diabetes. Nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Without action, the NCD epidemic is projected to kill 52 million people annually by 2030.

"The rise of chronic noncommunicable diseases presents an enormous challenge," said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. "Chronic noncommunicable diseases deliver a two-punch blow to development. They cause billions of dollars in losses of national income, and they push millions of people below the poverty line, each and every year."

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, approximately 17 million people annually, followed by cancer (7.6 million), respiratory disease (4.2 million), and diabetes (1.3 million). These four groups of diseases account for around 80 percent of all NCD deaths, and share four common risk factors:

  • tobacco use
  • physical inactivity
  • the harmful use of alcohol
  • poor diets

"About 30 percent 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," said Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

The WHO report provides country-by-country estimates of the NCDs epidemic and their risk factors, the challenges blocking many countries from taking effective action, and measures that can save millions of lives and reduce spiralling health-care costs. For more information, go to http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2011/ncds_20110427/en/index.html.

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