Press Releases

    7 October 2005

    New WHO Report Urges Global Effort against Chronic Diseases

    NEW YORK, 6 October (UN Fund for International Partnerships) -- In a report issued today, the World Health Organization (WHO) says global action to prevent chronic diseases could save the lives of 36 million people who would otherwise be dead by 2015.

    The report is entitled Preventing Chronic Diseases:  a vital investment. Dr. Catherine le Galès-Camus, Assistant Director General of Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, said it made important projections on the impact of chronic diseases on the economies of developing countries.  She added, "I encourage the creation of joint public and private sector programmes to address the causes of the diseases and the resulting economic inequalities."

    Currently, chronic diseases are by far the leading cause of death in the world and their impact is steadily growing. The report projects that approximately 17 million people die prematurely each year as a result of the global epidemic of chronic disease.  Faced with the prospect of millions of people dying prematurely and suffering needlessly from heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, the WHO says the global epidemic of chronic disease must be stopped.

    Contrary to common perception, this largely invisible epidemic is worst in low- and middle-income countries, where 80 per cent of all chronic disease deaths occur.  The report details the latest findings from nine countries:  Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania.

    The report also provides new projections for the economic impact of chronic diseases.  For example, China, India and the Russian Federation could forgo billions of dollars in national income over the next 10 years as a result of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.  The estimated accumulated losses to China from 2005 to 2015, for example, are $558 billion, for India $236 billion, and $303 billion for the Russian Federation.

    "This is a very serious situation, both for public health and for the societies and economies affected, and the toll is projected to increase", said Dr. Lee Jong-wook, WHO Director-General.  "The cost of inaction is clear and unacceptable.  It is vital that countries review and implement the health actions we know will reduce premature death from chronic diseases."

    In this report, WHO proposes a new global goal:  to reduce the projected trend of chronic disease death rates by 2 per cent each year until 2015.  This would prevent 36 million people dying of chronic diseases in the next 10 years, nearly half of them before they turn 70.

    Note to Editors

    The report Preventing Chronic Diseases:  a vital investment is available in pdf format at: . (Username: mediaguest; Password: globalepidemic)

    For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:  Alexandra Munro, Communications Officer, Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, WHO, tel: +41 22 791 50 53, mobile: +41 78 767 76 39, e-mail: ; Chu Young-Ae, Communications Officer, WHO, tel: +41 22 791 43 67 e-mail: ; Jane McElligott, Communications Adviser, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, WHO, tel: +41 22 791 33 53, mobile: +41 79 477 17 40, e-mail: ; Gawaher Atif, Chief of Office, UN Fund for International Partnerships, tel. 212-963-2922, e-mail:

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