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The Looming Threat Of Non-Communicable Diseases


A boy undergoing treatment lies in bed at the paediatric cancer section of the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, September 10, 2012.

Globally, over a 35 million people die of non-communicable diseases every year.

Globally, over a 35 million people die of non-communicable diseases every year. This means that every year, two of every three deaths are caused by chronic diseases that are not passed from person to person, but result to a large degree from risky behavior: tobacco use, in particular smoking; physical inactivity; unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol. The four main killers are cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes.


According to United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, “non-communicable diseases have emerged as growing health problems for countries in every corner of the globe.” In fact, even though non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, were long considered to be more prevalent in industrialized nations, today, 80 percent of deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, where health systems are not equipped to deal with the increasing disease burden associated with chronic illness.

“The Administration [of President Barack Obama] is deeply committed to addressing global health issues, including NCDs and their primary risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse, and unhealthy diet,” said Betty King, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, at a recent roundtable discussion regarding the prevention and control of NCDs.

“To turn the tide of NCDs, prevention efforts need to be ramped up, such as helping young people develop healthy habits and fostering environments that promote health,” she said.

The United States fully endorses the World Health Assembly goal to cut preventable, early deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025, and hopes that United Nations Member States will agree on set targets regarding the leading risk factors: a necessary step if we are to diminish the threat posed by this looming threat to the well-being of our populations.

“[Non-Communicable Diseases] are truly a global problem, and will require action from each of us to turn the tide,” said Ambassador King. “Communities, civil society organizations and the private sector each have important roles to play, collaborating with governments, in a clear and transparent manner, to identify and implement solutions to NCDs. The United States continues to be strongly committed to raising the profile of NCDs as a major global public health concern.”
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