"Window of opportunity" closing on non-communicable diseases, warns WHO

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Respiratory diseases are a major non-communicable disease. Photo: World Bank/Aisha Faquir

Millions of people are dying prematurely from diseases such as cancer and heart disease and many governments are making only "limited" progress in controlling them, UN health experts said on Monday.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that much greater political will is needed to beat these non-communicable diseases – also known as NCDs.

The issue is a key development problem, WHO's Dr Douglas Bettcher told journalists in Geneva, as data suggests that the world is not on track, as had been hoped, to reduce NCD deaths by one-third by 2030.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Non-communicable diseases are the world's biggest killers; they claim the lives of 15 million 30-70 year-olds a year.

Almost 80 per cent of deaths are in the developing world where the cost to economies has been estimated at US $7 trillion.

But some States have invested in wide-ranging reform to bring the fatality rate down.

These include Costa Rica and Iran, which have seen most success in tackling high salt and saturated fat diets according to WHO, followed by Brazil, Bulgaria, Turkey and the UK.

Elsewhere the picture is more mixed, indicating increasing numbers of people at risk, particularly youngsters.

Dr Douglas Bettcher is WHO's director for the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

"The window of opportunity to save lives is closing; this is playing out before our eyes in many ways including increasing numbers of people – particularly children and adolescents suffering from obesity overweight and diabetes. If we don't take action now to protect people from NCDs, we will condemn today's and tomorrow's youth to lives of ill-health and reduced economic opportunities."

Dr Bettcher said that urgent action is needed by the international community if it is to cut NCD deaths by one-third – a Sustainable Development Goal target.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1’14″


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