The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday released a new report that has revealed that non-communicable diseases – heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease – are now outnumbering infectious diseases as the top killers globally. According to the report, every two seconds, one person under the age of 70 dies of an NCD, and 86 per cent of those deaths are taking place in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This major shift in public health over the last decades has gone largely unnoticed, it stated.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, launched the new report calling on global leaders to take urgent action on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), responsible for 17 million premature deaths every year. The announcement came at the first annual gathering of a Heads of State and Government Group for the Prevention of NCDs, led by the President of Ghana and the Prime Minister of Norway, held during the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Along with the report, the global health agency will also launch a data portal on non-communicable (NCDs) diseases and their risk factors at an event co-organised with Bloomberg Philanthropies during the UN General Assembly.
According to the health agency, NCDs are one of the greatest health and development challenges of this century. Among them, cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, along with mental health, cause nearly three-quarters of deaths in the world and kill 41 million people every year.
The report reveals the true scale of the threat of NCDs and their risk factors. It also shows cost-effective and globally applicable interventions that can change those numbers and save lives and money.
Moreover, the NCD data portal with the latest country-specific data, risk factors and policy implementation for 194 countries brings the numbers in the report to life.
Meanwhile, it allows the exploration of the data for the four NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases) and their main drivers and risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol, and lack of physical activity). The portal makes the patterns and trends in countries visible and allows comparison across countries or within geographical regions.
“This report is a reminder of the true scale of the threat posed by NCDs and their risk factors. 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. I thank President Afuko-Addo, Prime Minister Støre and Michael Bloomberg for their leadership and vision in addressing this major global health issue,” said Dr Tedros while launching the report on Wednesday.
In India, the NCDs have become a major public health challenge. A recent report by ASSOCHAM indicates that the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in India is highest amongst those in the 26-59 age bracket. It is noteworthy that several studies have also pointed out that NCDs are also a leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity across the world. In the recent years, the burden of NCDs has caused a surge in mortality globally and in India two-thirds of the total deaths are due to NCDs.
According to a government report, the percentage of deaths caused by NCDs in India is thought to have increased from 37.9 percent in 1990 to 61.8 percent in 2016. The WHO had revealed last year that between 2010 and 2020, there were more than 44 million deaths from NCDs worldwide, with 10.4 million of those deaths occurring in South-East Asia.
The global health agency has also revealed that this year only a handful of countries were on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reducing early deaths from NCDs by a third by 2030.