Friday, September 14, 2007

Lifestyle disease deaths may double by 2015, WHO warns

SEOUL (AFP) — World deaths from "lifestyle" diseases will double by 2015 unless all-out efforts are taken to combat them, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Friday.

It said about 17 million people die prematurely each year as a result of the global epidemic of largely preventable chronic diseases -- the leading cause of death in the world today.

High on the list are cardiovascular diseases -- mainly heart disease and stroke -- cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and obesity.

"Unless national interventions are urgently taken to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases, 36 million people will die of these diseases by 2015, nearly half of them before they turn 70," said Shigeru Omi, director of the WHO regional committee for the Western Pacific.

The committee Friday was winding up a five-day meeting in the southern South Korean island of Jeju.

In 2005 the WHO set a global goal of reducing the projected trend of chronic disease death rates by two percent each year until 2015.

The vast majority of cases are caused by a small number of known and preventable risk factors. Three of the most important are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use, the WHO said.

Omi called for a "whole-of-society" approach to prevention. "All sectors, from government to private enterprises, civil society and communities, will have to work together," he said.

Regional health ministers urged national leaders to be role models for healthy lifestyles, including encouraging people to eat nutritious local food.

The ministers also called for better strategies to reduce non-communicable diseases.

Strengthening health services that are under pressure from the growing burden of non-communicable diseases is also part of the "whole-of-society" approach, the WHO said.

In line with this, regional health leaders will meet in Singapore in November to identify solutions.


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