Policymakers must hasten to put an end to the spread of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Authors Dr. K. M. Venkat Narayan, Dr. Mohammed Ali and Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, assert that the worldwide spread of chronic conditions, also known as noncommunicable diseases, offers a unique opportunity for low-, middle- and high-income countries around the globe to unite in their efforts to find tangible solutions for reducing the health and economic burdens of these diseases.
Chronic diseases account for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.
Trends also suggest that the major risk factors for these diseases - hypertension, high glucose levels, obesity, and inactivity - are all on the rise, especially in developing countries.
Six out of the 10 risk factors for mortality worldwide are related to chronic noncommunicable diseases, and not infections or lack of nutrition, as was previously the case.
In addition to the health consequences, the long-term costs of treatment of chronic ailments and the negative effects on productivity take devastating tolls on the economic situations of individuals, families and countries. According to estimates,
China, India and Britain will lose 558 billion dollars, 237 billion dollars, and 33 billion dollars, respectively, in national income over the next decade as a result of largely preventable heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
In the U.S., cardiovascular disease and diabetes together cost the country 750 billion dollars annually.
"There is a unique opportunity now for global cooperation to tackle noncommunicable diseases. In fact, unless noncommunicable diseases are tackled, goals relating to child health and infectious diseases cannot be achieved nor can economic development be sustained," says Narayan.
Narayan and his co-authors also cite examples of how global cooperation and connections have benefited the movement to reduce chronic disease, including the development and testing of a new screening test for cervical cancer in India that could result in a lower cost screening test for millions of women worldwide.
The study has been published in The New England Journal of Medicine.