|Fact sheet No 106: Noncommunicable Diseases - March 1996 (WHO, 1996, 2 p.)|
Experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) have expressed their concern over the potential perils of inadequate attention to the prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) both in developed and, especially, in developing countries.
Their forewarning came in a recent internal report of the WHO Consultation on the integrated prevention and control of NCDs, which was held in Geneva in December 1995, and brought together experts in noncommunicable diseases from the Organization's headquarters and regional advisers from the six WHO regional offices covering the entire world.
WHO professionals stressed that there existed today a discrepancy between the ever-growing burden of the global health, economic and social consequences of NCDs, on the one hand, and inadequate attention towards their prevention, particularly in developing countries, on the other hand.
The group of major noncommunicable diseases, addressed at the consultation, includes cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic rheumatic and respiratory diseases, oral diseases, and genetic disorders. Most NCDs are associated with economic development (urbanization and changing lifestyles) and ageing.
One glance at available mortality statistics will allow one to grasp the magnitude of the worldwide problem of NCDs, though mortality statistics alone do not provide a full picture of the global social and economic burden of this group of diseases: many NCDs cause human suffering for a long time before they kill.
According to WHO estimates, all NCDs, in many cases preventable, account for at least 40 % of all deaths in developing countries and 75% in industrialized countries, where cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the first cause of mortality and cancer is the third one.
NCDs have a major impact on health economics. Once developed, they are costly to treat. According to the American Heart Association, in 1996, CVDs in the U.S.A. will cost US $ 151.3 billion, including medical treatment and lost productivity from disability. Diabetes mellitus alone, which affects some 100 million people worldwide, claims on average around 8% of total health budgets in industrialized countries.