Chronic illnesses like cancer, heart ailments and diabetes account for more deaths than caused by other diseases combined, reports World Health Organisation.
A global report on NCD (Non-Communicable Diseases) informs that these chronic problems pose greater threat than other communicable diseases like malaria and TB. The report emphasizes that “the NCD epidemic exacts an enormous toll in terms of human suffering and inflicts serious damage to human development in both the social and economic realms."
In 2008, heart diseases, respiratory problems, cancer and diabetes accounted for over 36 million deaths worldwide that is nearly 63 per cent of deaths every year worldwide. Unhealthy lifestyle sans physical exercise, ill habits like smoking and drinking are mainly responsible for the rise in number of deaths due to chronic diseases. WHO also found that almost 6 million people die from tobacco use every year -- both directly from smoking, and indirectly from second-hand smoke. By 2020, this number will increase to 7.5 million, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths worldwide.
Further, 3.2 million people die each year due to a lack of physical activity, another 2.8 million people die as a result of being overweight or obese, and 2.5 million people are killed by excessive alcohol consumption. These diseases have also become common in poorer countries where situation is getting beyond the control of the governments.
In many developing countries where the health focus is often on infectious diseases, chronic illnesses are often detected late when patients need extensive and expensive hospital care. Hefty hospital bills or unavailability of facilities can deprive patients of adequate treatment, further risking their lives.
Nearly 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries and are the most recurrent causes of death in most countries, except in Africa, the WHO said. But even in Africa, NCDs are rising rapidly and are expected to surpass other diseases as the most common killers by 2020.
The WHO has prioritized its course of action as monitoring chronic diseases, preventing them by educating people about risks and lifestyle that may harm and improvising the medical accessibility for the needy.
The WHO has listed its top 10 ‘best buys’, including banning smoking in public places, enforcing tobacco advertising bans, restricting access to alcohol and cutting salt in food, and said these steps should be taken now to produce "results in terms of lives saved, diseases prevented and heavy costs avoided".