Deaths due to NCDs can be preventable –WHO

January 22, 2015 1:15 am 

MANILA, Jan. 21 — The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that eight out of 10 adults in the Western Pacific Region die because of NCDs (non-communicable diseases).

“Many of these deaths can be prevented,” said Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

In a statement, Dr. Shin said that governments need to invest in cost-effective policies and interventions to help reduce tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, high blood pressure and insufficient physical activity which are among the leading risk factors for NCDs.

Dr. Shin also said that urgent action is needed to reduce the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases and prevent the annual toll of 16 million people dying prematurely – before the age of 70 – from heart and lung disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes based on a new WHO report.

He added that the Western Pacific Region is one of two WHO regions in which deaths due to NCDs have increased the most, from 8.6 million in 2000 to 10.9 million in 2012.

According to the Global Status Report on Non-Communicable Diseases 2014, 82% of the 16 million premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, overtaking deaths from infectious diseases.

In the Western Pacific Region, NCD risk factors remain unacceptably high:

* One in five adults over 18 years of age has elevated blood pressure;

* Nearly half of all men over 15 years of age smoke tobacco daily; and

* About 85% of adolescents do not engage in sufficient physical activity.

Dr. Shin said that the NCD epidemic in the Region is aggravated by the forces of globalization, urbanization and rapid economic growth.

He added that due to processed foods, often high in salt and sugar that have become more affordable and accessible, the traditional diets in parts of the Region were replaced.

Pacific island countries have called for a reduction in the trade of unhealthy products.

According to the report, the prevalence of NCD risk factors such as overweight, obesity and elevated blood glucose is significantly higher in Pacific island countries than other parts of the Region.

In the Pacific, nearly half of women over 18 years of age are obese. One in five adults has elevated blood glucose.

In declaring an NCD crisis, Pacific island leaders have underscored the fundamental role of health in development. As Samoa’s Minister of Health Dr. Talalelei Tuitama put it, “With no health, there is no development.”

“NCDs create a huge financial burden for families and society,” explained Dr. Shin.

He further said that NCDs impede efforts to alleviate poverty and threaten the achievement of international development goals.

“When people of productive age fall sick and die, productivity suffers. And the cost of treating diseases can be devastating – both to the individual and to a country’s health system,” he said.

Combatting NCDs in the Western Pacific Region

Most NCDs can be prevented through ”best buy” or cost-effective high-impact interventions,” said Dr. Susan Mercado, Director of NCD and Health through the Life-Course for WHO’s Western Pacific Region.

“Everyone has a role to play in the prevention and control of NCDs. Legislators, mayors, teachers, media, civil society and communities can take action to reduce NCD risks , e.g. by banning all forms of tobacco advertising, educating the public about the benefits of a healthy diet and physical activity, or promoting breastfeeding,” Mercado added.

She also said that efforts must also foster a reorientation of health systems to promote better collaboration between primary care facilities and referral centers, better preventive care, early screening for risk factors, better medical records systems and improved access to essential drugs and medicines.

Many countries have already had success in implementing “best buy” interventions to meet global targets to reduce the burden of NCDs.

With support from WHO, Western Pacific Member States are taking action to address the NCD burden.

In the Republic of Korea, counselling centers have been established to provide community-based preventive care services. The centers provide health education, organize exercise groups and refer residents to health professionals.

In Mongolia, industry engagement prompted a major bread manufacturer to reduce the amount of salt in its products.

Over-consumption of salt is linked to high blood pressure. (PNA)

SCS/WHO-PR/LSJ

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