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Areas of Interest

Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) and Lifestyles

Main Issues

According to the World Health Organization, in 2008 a total of 57 million deaths occurred worldwide. Of those, 36 million (63%) resulted from NCDs, mainly represented by cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease.

In the next 10 to 15 years, the loss of health and life will be greater from NCD or chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, than from infectious and parasitic diseases. This represents a shift in disease epidemiology that has become the focus of increasing attention in light of global aging. By 2030, the burden attributed to NCD in low- and middle-income countries will reach 54 percent while the share attributed to communicable diseases is expected to fall to 32 percent. For the over-60 population in low-, middle-, and high-income countries NCD already account for more than 87 percent of the burden.

Most NCDs are strongly associated and causally linked with four particular behaviors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the abuse of alcohol. These behaviors lead to four key metabolic and physiological changes: raised blood pressure, obesity, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia.


Both population-wide primary prevention approaches and individual health-care strategies are needed to reduce NCDs and their impact. Risk factors and risk behaviors can be encountered at all ages, and for this reason comprehensive, long-term strategies for control of NCDs must take a life-course approach to prevention starting in early life.

Community-based NCD programs are effective when they combine meaningful community participation and engagement, supportive policies, multi-sectoral collaboration and active partnerships among national authorities, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and the private sector.

Increased physical activity combined with the reduction of tobacco use, salt and fat intake, and immoderate drinking of alcoholic, can greatly reduce or attenuate the occurrence of NCDs. In most cases, this approach will require regulatory and fiscal mechanisms, as well as vigorous and sustained efforts to facilitate the abandonment of harmful practices and the adoption of healthy preventive behaviors.




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