Urgent government action is needed to meet global targets to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and prevent the annual toll of 16 million people dying prematurely – before the age of 70 – from heart and lung diseases, stroke, cancer and diabetes, according to a new WHO report.
In a report that flags the threat that NCDs pose to health, the WHO noted that 60 per cent of the 9,816,000 deaths in India in 2014 were on account of NCDs.
The highest number of deaths at 28 per cent was attributed to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions, followed by cardiovascular diseases (26 per cent), chronic respiratory diseases (13 per cent), injuries (12 per cent), other NCDs (12 per cent), cancer (7 per cent) and diabetes (2 per cent).
In South-East Asia, the number of deaths on account of NCDs stands at 8.5 million and is expected to grow.
The report calls for more action to be taken to curb the epidemic, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where deaths due to NCDs are overtaking those from infectious diseases. Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths (28 million), and 82 per cent of the 16 million premature deaths, occur in low- and middle-income countries.
''The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic,'' says WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan, who on Monday launched the 'Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014'.
''By investing just $1-3 per person per year, countries can dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs. In 2015, every country needs to set national targets and implement cost-effective actions. If they do not, millions of lives will continue to be lost too soon,'' she added.
''The global community has the chance to change the course of the NCD epidemic.''
The report states that most premature NCD deaths are preventable. Of the 38 million lives lost to NCDs in 2012, 16 million or 42 per cent were premature and avoidable – up from 14.6 million in 2000.
Nearly five years into the global effort to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025, the report provides a fresh perspective on key lessons learned.
Premature NCD deaths can be significantly reduced through government policies reducing tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, and delivering universal health care. For example, in Brazil the NCD mortality rate is dropping 1.8 per cent per year due in part to the expansion of primary health care.