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U.N. Summit Seeks to Tame 'Non-Communicable Diseases'
Date:9/16/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Heart disease. Cancer. Lung disease. Diabetes.

All these scourges loom large as global killers and, unlike infectious illnesses, all are largely preventable, experts say.

But the truth is that these "non-communicable diseases" (NCDs) are now the leading cause of death worldwide by a wide margin. That's why health experts and leaders from 193 nations plan to meet next week at the United Nations in New York City to discuss strategies to lower the death toll.

"This will be the first time that the U.N. has actually focused on the major killer of most people," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, and a professor of oncology and epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta.

"We need this," he added. "We need a chronic disease movement. We need to drive attention toward overall health. Because cancer, for example, kills more people in the world than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined."

As analyzed in a new report issued this week by the World Health Organization (WHO), non-infectious diseases are responsible for roughly 36 million fatalities worldwide every year. The loss in terms of life-years and productivity is staggering, since about 9 million of these deaths occur among men and women under the age of 60.

According to Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, president of the American Heart Association, "if current trends continue, well before the middle of this century [non-communicable diseases] will be responsible for more than three-quarters of the deaths around the world."

Heart disease currently accounts for the lion's share of these deaths, with WHO saying that 48 percent of non-communicable disease fatalities are attributable to cardiac illness. A little more than one in five non-communicable disease deaths are due to cancer, while respiratory illness is linked to slightly more than one
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