Monday, September 12, 2011

United Nations to Focus on "Lifestyle" Diseases

Noting that nearly 2/3 of all deaths worldwide are now caused by "lifestyle" diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced a UN-sponsored summit in September to bring focus to the need to combat these diseases. The "big four" non-communicable diseases "have emerged relatively unnoticed in the developing world and are now becoming a global epidemic," Moon said.

Thirty six million people died from these diseases in 2008, according to a UN report, representing 63% of the 57 million deaths globally that year. Almost 80% of these deaths were in the developing world, and 9 million of them were men or women under 60 years old. Ban went on to say that the rapidly increasing magnitude of non-communicable diseases is fueled by rising risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, obesity and harmful alcohol use — and is driven in part by an aging population, the negative impact of urbanization, and the globalization of trade and marketing.

Professor David Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health is leading a project to estimate the global economic burden of non-communicable diseases. His preliminary results indicate that the economic burden is substantial and ""will evolve into a staggering economic burden over the next two decades" that could have a huge impact on economic development and fighting poverty. Bloom said his researchers estimate a loss of economic output amounting to $35 trillion during the 25-year period from 2005 to 2030 due to a key group of non-communicable diseases — diabetes, ischemic heart disease including strokes, cerebral vascular disease, chronic destructive pulmonary disease, and breast cancer. To put this number in perspective, $35 trillion is seven times the current level of global health spending, and 15 times the 2011 value of all the overseas development assistance in the world over the past quarter century.

What does this mean to you? It means that the things that are most likely to shorten your life, kill you and take you away from your friends and loved ones are all things that are, largely if not completely, under your control. Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity, chronic obesity and harmful alcohol use are all things you can do something about. Any time you choose. Just go and do it.

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