Non-communicable diseases will kill us in future

‘€œWorld Health Statistics 2008’€, a WHO publication, revealed that leading infectious diseases ‘€“ diarrhoea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria ‘€“ would become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years.

 ‘€œWe are definitely seeing a trend towards fewer people dying of infectious diseases across the world,’€ said Dr Ties Boerma, Director of the WHO Department of Health Statistics and Informatics. ‘€œWe tend to associate developing countries with infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. But in more and more countries the chief causes of death are non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.’€

The report highlights specific statistics or trends that reflect the state of the world’€™s health.

According to the report pregnancy and childbirth are still dangerous for most women. Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to improve maternal health, is described as the most ‘€œoff track’€ of all health related MDG indicators.

In developed countries, nine mothers die for every 100 000 live births, while in developing countries the death rate is 450 and in sub-Saharan Africa it is 950. This means that 99 percent of the women who died in pregnancy and childbirth were from developing countries.

The WHO emphasised that the number of people living with HIV continued to rise, but that it was lower than previously estimated. Most of the infections with HIV and deaths due to the disease could be prevented if people everywhere had access to good services preventing and treating HIV infection, the report said. Currently, the number of people in the world who become infected every day (over 6 800) is greater than the number who die of the disease (around 6 000).

Sub-saharan Africa continues to be the region most affected by HIV/AIDS. Last year, one in three people in the world living with HIV lived in this region, a total of 22,5-million.

Malaria continues to be endemic in the world’€™s poorest countries with a positive aspect the increase in the distribution of insecticide treated bed nets. In the majority of the 21 African countries, where 80 percent of the global burden occurs, the proportion of children sleeping under nets increased five to 10 times within five years.

The introduction of anti-malarial combined therapy, which includes bed nets for children under five, spraying of households, dispensing anti-malarial drugs for children under five with a fever and dispensing a prophylactic drug to pregnant women, saw a massive decrease in mortality.

Tobacco use remained the single largest cause of preventable death in the world today with tobacco killing a third to half of all those who use it. On average every user of tobacco loses 15 years of life and the total deaths attributed to tobacco use is projected to rise from 5,4-million in 2004 to 8,3-million in 2030, almost 10 percent of all deaths worldwide. More than 80 percent of these deaths will occur in developing countries. It is also estimated than efforts to control tobacco use reach only five percent of the world’€™s population.

The report identifies cancer as globally one of the top ten leading causes of death. It is estimated that 7,4-million people died of cancer in 2004 and if current trends continue 83,2-million more will have died by 2015.

Among women, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer mortality, accounting for 16 percent of deaths in adult women. Breast cancer, along with cervical, colorectal and possibly oral cancers, is the only type for which early screening has been shown to reduce mortality from the disease.

The report also highlighted the fact that 100-million people are impoverished every year by paying out of pocket for health care. From the 89 countries surveyed an average of almost 3% of households experience financial catastrophe due to health care costs, corresponding to 150-million people worldwide.

‘€œWorld health statistics 2008’€ is based on data collected from WHO’s 193 Member States. ‘€“ Health-e News Service

 

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