The Growing Burden of Chronic Diseases

The Growing Burden  of Chronic DiseasesThe Growing Burden  of Chronic Diseases

There was a time when tetanus, tuberculosis, cholera and other communicable diseases caused a majority of deaths worldwide.

With medical advancements and measures such as immunization, promoting environmental health, maternal and neonatal care, such diseases have been kept in check.

However, today non-communicable diseases (NCD), also known as chronic diseases, are increasing, accounting for 70% of the deaths worldwide or 38 million annually, with nearly three-quarters (28 million) in low and middle-income countries, including Iran.

NCDs account for 53% of disease burden for governments globally. If the trend continues, it will reach 60% by 2020, said Ahmad Kousha, head of Non-Communicable Disease Center at the Health Ministry.

 Kousha pointed to the World Health Organization (WHO) plan to prevent “premature” NCD deaths by 25% globally, by the year 2025, reports ISNA.

All age groups and regions are affected by NCDs, which as a rule are associated with the elderly, but evidence shows that 16 million deaths due to NCDs occur before the age of 70. Of these, 82% occur in low and middle income countries. Children, adults and the elderly are vulnerable to risk factors that contribute to NCDs, whether from unhealthy diets, excessive sodium intake, physical inactivity, and exposure to tobacco smoke or alcohol consumption.

Globally, 70% of deaths are attributed to NCDs; 8.2 million people die due to cancer, 4 million from respiratory diseases, 17.5 million due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 1.5 million succumb to diabetes each year.

 Risk Factors

In Iran, preventive measures to reduce premature deaths by 25% in 10 years require serious efforts to contain the risk factors that include: reduction in physical inactivity by 20%, (currently 40-45% of the people do not exercise) alcohol consumption by 10%, sodium intake by 30%, smoking by 30% and high blood pressure prevalence rate by 25%.  Moreover, trans fatty acids (TFA) have to be eliminated from edible oils, Kousha said.

Apart from NCDs, the rate of traffic accidents is also high; mental disorders (23.6%), drug abuse and depression (1 in 4 people) are other problems.  NCDs are often rooted in cultural behavior, habits and lifestyle.

All organizations should cooperate in this national task. As 25% of NCDs come under the scope of the Health Ministry, the remaining has to be taken care of by other competent organizations in cooperation with the people.

The Ministry of Roads and Urban Development and traffic police should take effective measures to reduce traffic accidents and state broadcaster IRIB, must play a major role in raising awareness and ushering healthy lifestyles and culture, he said.

The Health Ministry has plans to prevent cancers including colon, breast, uterus and lung, as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, through screening and blood tests to diagnose diseases at an early stage. Restrictions on smoking will be strictly implemented.

“There should be curbs on obtaining cigarettes as they are easier to get than bread,” Kousha noted. Moreover, health units and medical centers will take further preventive action in NCDs in cities and rural areas.

Electronic health cards with all medical data will also replace the nugatory health insurance booklets for doctors to have easy access to a person’s medical history.