One in four Indians above 30 risks dying of lifestyle diseases: WHO

Report shows India has no multi-pronged plan to reduce NCDs or a proper monitoring and surveillance system

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Monday 14 July 2014


A report on non-communicable diseases released by the World Health Organization paints a grim picture of India. The risk of dying from a non-communicable disease (NCD) for persons aged between 30 and 70 years in India is a high 26 per cent, according to the second set of NCD profiles for 194 countries, released by WHO on Thursday. What’s more, Indian males are more prone to dying of these diseases than women. The number of people suffering from the four main NCDs—heart diseases, all types of cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes—is also  high. This challenges the notion that NCDs primarily occur among older adults.

The first such profiling for NCDs was done in 2011.
WHO notes "the new WHO NCD Country Profiles 2014 show progress has been insufficient and uneven" in controlling NCDs. In 2000, nearly 1.6 million males under age 70 died of the four NCDs in India. The figure increased to 2 million in 2012. This happened despite the Union health ministry launching a programme in 2008 targeting NCDs. Among women, the deaths increased from nearly 1.25 million to almost 1.45 million during the same period.

Among the risk factors that lead to these NCDs, high blood pressure was the biggest reason. Twenty-one percent of all Indians were found to be suffering from high blood pressure, with equal share among men and women. The higher rate among men is explained by increased consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Almost 25 per cent of all males consume tobacco while only 4 per cent females do so. Similarly, 8 per cent of all males consume alcohol and only 0.5 per cent females do so.

The report shows that India does not have in place either a multi-sectoral plan to reduce NCDs in relation with risk factors, or a proper monitoring and surveillance system. The country also lacks a national population-based cancer registry.

85% NCD deaths occur in developing countries

If one considers the global picture, developing countries show dismal performance. “Our latest data show that 85 per cent of premature deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries. The challenges presented by these diseases are enormous,” said WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan.

Thirty-eight million people die each year from the four main NCDs. Over 14 million deaths from NCDs occur between the ages of 30 and 70, of which 85 per cent are in developing countries. These premature deaths are largely preventable by governments implementing simple measures which reduce risk factors for NCDs and enable health systems to respond, says the report.

The report notes that the number of NCD deaths has increased worldwide and in every region since 2000. NCD deaths have increased the most in regions South-East Asia and Western Pacific.

The release of the report coincides with United Nations’ General Assembly on July10-11. Member States, gathered at the United Nations in New York, pledged to intensify efforts to combat the growing menace of NCDs. "Three years ago we agreed that it is time to act," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message. "The global epidemic of non-communicable diseases is a major and growing challenge to development."

The international community agreed in 2011 on a Global NCD Action Plan. This plan aims to reduce the number of premature deaths from NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025, in part by addressing factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity that increase people's risk of developing these diseases.

The UN secretary-general said that "success will depend on finding new ways to strengthen the ability of countries to adopt bolder measures," and called for strong leadership and action from governments and the private sector.

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