In 2006, the World Health Organization published a landmark report which should revolutionize our understanding of chronic diseases and cause us to act accordingly. It’s urgent!
In a 2006 report, World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the silent chronic disease epidemics, which will affect every country in the world. At this time, these diseases cannot be cured and require long-term medical treatment and care – hence the term “chronic” diseases.
They have been growing exponentially in the last thirty years, and will force us to undertake a vast reorganization of our healthcare and health prevention systems. They will induce long term changes in our lifestyles and in our dietary, mobility and working habits… What about you? What will you do to prevent chronic diseases?
The Report Rationale
According to the WHO, chronic diseases include cardiovascular diseases (heart attack and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. These diseases are forcing us to reconsider the way we treat and care for patients, and how we approach prevention. Therapeutic and prevention acts can no longer be one-time instances, because these diseases cannot be cured. The WHO warns the general public, healthcare professionals and policymakers that current measures are insufficient to curb the exponential growth of chronic diseases.
Current measures are insufficient to curb exponential growth of chronic disease.
How can we limit the health, social and economic impact of chronic diseases in the next 10 years?
This report is based on the work of a panel of experts. It debunks several misconceptions about chronic diseases and offers insights into potential solutions to cope with their growth. Relying on the international scientific literature, the WHO experts make globally-minded epidemiology, political and economic analyses. Graphics are clear and perfectly illustrate both the assessment and the solutions offered in the report.
60% of deaths in the world are caused by chronic diseases. These diseases result in poor quality of life and loss of independence for the people they affect. They cause premature death, and generate severe economic consequences for families, communities and countries worldwide. They are mostly due to poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles and tobacco use. Every year, 2.6 million people die because they are either overweight or obese. 4.4 millions die because of high cholesterol. 7.1 millions die because of hypertension. Every year, at least 4.9 million people die of tobacco use. 380 million people will die of a chronic disease between 2006 and 2016. Nearly 80% of cardiac disease, stroke and diabetes cases could be prevented. The same is true for cancer. Why? Because these diseases are mostly caused by unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, tobacco and alcohol use. Yet, 1 billion people remain overweight.
Chronic diseases are mainly due to inappropriate behavior.
The General Message
The use of the phrase “we all have to die of something” is commonplace. In chronic diseases, however, death is not sudden. Instead, it’s often slow and painful. Chronic diseases gradually and insidiously weaken people. They make them dependent on tedious treatments, medical equipment, caregivers, social assistance and family support. They are costly for patients and society as a whole, especially if they are not identified early and dealt with properly. While death is not preventable, prolonged poor health can be. All we have to do is adopt healthier daily behaviors. Preventing chronic diseases from affecting us and our loved ones is our immediate responsibility.
What it means for Healthcare Professionals
Some people refuse to adopt healthier behaviors, claiming that healthy people die young and people who lead unhealthy lives live long. In fact, the latter are the exception which confirms the rule. The vast majority of chronic diseases are attributable to common risk factors. They can be prevented by eliminating those risks.
What it means for Researchers
Researchers’ greatest challenge will be to assert the distinction between the cause of a disease and the risk factor for a given population. Preventing chronic diseases can only be achieved at that cost.
What it means for Policymakers
Paradoxically, in a society where medias focus mostly on medical feats, genetic breakthroughs and infectious epidemics, chronic diseases are “invisible”. The economic cost of chronic disease care is going to skyrocket. In 2001, the estimated cost of obesity reached 5% of national health expenses in the US and 2% in France. We must keep in mind that chronic diseases generate both direct costs (health expenses) and indirect costs, such as the impact on families and productivity.
Organisation Mondiale de la Santé (2006). Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment. Geneva: WHO.
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To reference this Blog en Sante © article.
Ninot G (2014). Most chronic diseases are preventable. Blog en Sante, A33.
© Copyright 2014 Grégory Ninot. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Syl Billere for the English Revision.