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WHO Releases Global Status Report On NCDs Calling Chronic Diseases World's Leading Killer

The WHO “published a report Wednesday showing the prevalence of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular illness around the world, along with countries’ abilities to cope with the growing number of people affected by them,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (9/13). In the report, “the WHO said 36 million people died of chronic diseases in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available,” VOA News writes, adding, “More than a quarter of those people were less than 60 years old” (9/13). The report’s release coincides with the first U.N. summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which is scheduled to take place in New York September 19-20, the AP notes (9/13).

NCDs “are the top cause of death worldwide,” according to a WHO press release, which adds that of the 36 million deaths reflected in the report, “[c]ardiovascular diseases were responsible for 48 percent of these deaths, cancers 21 percent, chronic respiratory diseases 12 percent and diabetes three percent” (9/14). “But the WHO report says it estimates some 30 million lives could be saved over the next decade with simple, inexpensive measures, such as reducing salt intake by 15 to 20 percent, decreasing smoking and increasing the number of at-risk people getting preventative care for heart attacks and strokes,” VOA writes (9/13). The focus on NCDs “pushes the global health community into a messy world of hard-to-change human behavior, powerful commercial interests and political debate about how much governments should do to protect people from themselves,” the Washington Post writes (Brown, 9/13).

“WHO accompanied the report with interactive maps intended to easily highlight how countries compare to each other,” the AP writes (9/13). The Washington Post published a graphic showing causes of death, by percentage, across various countries (Berkowitz/Stanton, 9/13).