Obesity and other "lifestyle diseases" are killing millions more people, than terrorism, an international conference heard Monday.
Overcoming deadly factors such as poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise should take top priority in the fight against a growing epidemic of chronic disease, legal and health experts said.
Global terrorism was a real threat but posed far less risk than obesity, type two diabetes and smoking-related illnesses, US law professor Lawrence Gostin said at the Oxford Health Alliance Summit here.
"Ever since September 11 we've been lurching from one crisis to the next which has really frightened the public," Gostin told AFP later.
"While we've been focussing so much attention on that we've had this silent epidemic of obesity that's killing millions of people around the world and we're devoting very little attention to it and a negligible amount of money."
The fifth annual conference of the Oxford Health Alliance -- co-founded by Oxford University -- has brought together world experts from academia, government, business, law, economics and urban planning to promote change.
Like terrorism, some passing health threats get major government attention and media coverage, while heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer account for 60 percent of the world's deaths, the meeting was told.
"It is true that new and re-emerging health threats such as SARS, avian flu, HIV/AIDS, terrorism, bioterrorism and climate change are dramatic and emotive," said Stig Pramming, the Oxford group's executive director.
"However, it is preventable chronic disease that will send health systems and economies to the wall."
The conference is due to end Wednesday with a call on governments and big business among others to take action to avert the millions of premature deaths due to chronic disease.