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Noncommunicable diseases biggest killer globally

by IP Staff

The World Health Organization will release on Wednesday a new report and data portal on noncommunicable (NCDs) diseases and their risk factors at an event co-organized with Bloomberg Philanthropies during the UN General Assembly.

NCDs are one of the greatest health and development challenges of this century.  Chief 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, Invisible numbers: The true extent of noncommunicable diseases and what to do about them makes the NCDs numbers visible and reminds of 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.

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.  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.

The report and its key findings, the data portal and the recording from a press conference held on 15 September for the UN Geneva correspondents are available under embargo.  WHO experts and the report’s authors are available for interviews.

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.

Major risk factors that lead to NCDs are tobacco use, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and air pollution.  Eliminating these factors could prevent or delay significant ill health and many premature deaths from NCDs.

The report and data portal come at a critical juncture for public health: in 2022, only a handful of countries were on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on reducing early deaths from NCDs by a third by 2030.  This is despite the fact that the NCDs are truly at the heart of sustainable development and their prevention and treatment is a prime opportunity for investment that will have myriad impacts on economic growth, far outweighing the money spent.

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