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Non-Communicable Diseases Responsible For More Than Half Of Deaths Worldwide, WHO Report Says

Chronic and non-communicable illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are at epidemic proportions and cause more deaths worldwide than all other diseases combined, the WHO said in a report released Wednesday, Reuters reports.

In its first global report on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the WHO said 36 million, or 63 percent, of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008 were the result of such illnesses (Kelland, 4/27). Eighty percent of those deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, where they are a greater burden than infectious diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, BBC News reports.

“For some countries, it is no exaggeration to describe the situation as an impending disaster; a disaster for health, for society, and most of all for national economies. Chronic non-communicable 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,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said (4/27).

Cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes account for approximately 80 percent of all NCD deaths and share the risk factors of tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and poor diets, according to a WHO press release. The report noted that national government policies to fight NCDs should include “stronger anti-tobacco controls and promoting healthier diets, physical activity, and reducing harmful use of alcohol; along with improving people’s access to essential health care,” the release states.

The first-ever U.N. General Assembly high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs is scheduled to be held in New York from September 19-20, 2011 (4/27).