These diseases are motivated by forces that include rapid unplanned urbanization, globalization of unhealthy lifestyles, and population ageing.
Modifiable behavioral risk factors
Modifiable behaviors that increase the risk of NCDs: tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and harmful use of alcohol.
• Tobacco accounts for more than 7.2 million deaths every year (including second-hand smoke).
• 4.1 million annual deaths have been attributed to excess salt/sodium intake.
• More than half of the 3.3 million annual deaths attributable to alcohol use are from NCDs, including cancer.
• 1.6 million deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity.
Metabolic risk factors
Metabolic risk factors contribute to four key metabolic changes that increase the risk of NCDs:
• elevated blood pressure
The leading metabolic risk factor globally is elevated blood pressure, followed by overweight/obesity and elevated blood glucose.
The socioeconomic impact of NCDs
Poverty is closely linked with NCDs. The rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty-reduction initiatives in low-income countries, particularly by increasing domestic costs associated with health care. Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people get sicker and die sooner than people of higher social positions, especially because they are at greater risk of being exposed to harmful products, such as tobacco, or unhealthy dietary practices, and have limited access to health services.
In low-resource settings, health-care costs for NCDs quickly drain family resources. The excessive costs of NCDs, including treatments that are often lengthy and expensive, combined with loss of income force millions of people into poverty annually and stifle development.
Prevention and control of NCDs
An important way to control NCDs is to focus on reducing the risk factors associated with these diseases. Low-cost solutions exist to reduce the common modifiable risk factors. Monitoring progress and trends of NCDs and their risk is important for guiding policy and priorities.
To lessen the impact of NCDs on individuals and society, a complete approach is needed requiring all sectors (e.g., health, finance, education, etc.) to collaborate to reduce the risks associated with NCDs, and to promote interventions to prevent and control them.
Investing in better management of NCDs is critical. Management of NCDs includes detecting, screening, and treating these diseases, and providing access to palliative care
for people in need.
High-impact essential NCD interventions can be delivered through a primary health care approach to strengthen early detection and timely treatment; such interventions are tremendous economic investments because, if provided early to patients, they can reduce the need for more expensive treatment.
Countries with inadequate health insurance coverage are unlikely to provide universal access to essential NCD intervention
In 2014, the World Health Assembly (WHA) approved the resolution "Strengthening of palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course" (WHA67.19), urging national governments to carry out actions to develop palliative care.
Inadequate funding, lack of resources, and cultural factors were the most relevant barriers to implementation. The wide network of NGOs and palliative care associations was identified as the main facilitator. The key identified impact of the resolution was its value as an advocacy tool and its contribution to raising awareness about palliative care around the world.
See reference for more information.
Adapted from WHO, Fact sheets. Noncommunicable diseases. Internet. Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases. Accessed on October 21, 2021.