By 2015, chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease will be the leading cause of death in developing countries, a new World Bank report said.
The report, entitled ‘Public Policy and the Challenge of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases’, warns that poor countries are catching up with wealthier nations in terms of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
It says rising life expectancy for all age groups, lower fertility rates, better control of infectious diseases, and changing lifestyles with more smoking, bad diets and lack of exercise, mean that poor countries face a future where non-communicable diseases (NCDs) become a major problem.
The report calls on countries to promote healthy aging and avoid premature deaths and also to adapt their health systems to cope with the growing numbers of elderly people who will require long-term care and request expensive treatment.
“NCDs are not restricted to older people and represent an important cause of illness and death among people of working age. Moreover, about three-quarters of the NCD disability burden in low-and middle-income countries occurs among those between the ages of 15 and 69, at the peak of economic productivity,” it adds.
The report notes that many studies tend to underestimate the real cost of NCDs to individual people and their families, which can cause a household to slip below the poverty line.