Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Global Health: Time to Pay Attention to Chronic Diseases

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From the 1 Ju;ly 2014 blog post

…While infectious diseases remain a significant problem in the developing world, cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases are now among the fastest growing causes of death and disability around the globe. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the 38 million people who died of chronic diseases in 2012 lived in low- or middle-income countries [1].

The good news is that many NCDs can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake for hypertension, stopping smoking for cancer and heart disease, or venting cookstove fumes for lung disease. Other NCDs can be averted or controlled by taking medications, such as statins for high cholesterol or metformin for diabetes.

 

July 2, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The Lancet: Reducing just 6 risk factors could prevent 37 million deaths from chronic diseases over 15 years

From the 2 May 2014 press release

Reducing or curbing just six modifiable risk factors—tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, salt intake, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and obesity—to globally-agreed target levels could prevent more than 37 million premature deaths over 15 years, from the four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs; cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and diabetes) according to new research published in The Lancet.

Worryingly, the findings indicate that not reaching these targets would result in 38.8 million deaths in 2025 from the four main NCDs, 10.5 million deaths more than the 28.3 million who died in 2010.

This is the first study to analyse the impact that reducing globally targeted risk factors will have on the UN’s 25×25 target to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% relative to 2010 levels by 2025.

Using country-level data on deaths and risk factors and epidemiological models, Professor Majid Ezzati from Imperial College London, UK, and colleagues estimate the number of deaths that could be prevented between 2010 and 2025 by reducing the burden of each of the six risk factors to globally-agreed target levels—tobacco use (30% reduction and a more ambitious 50% reduction), alcohol use (10% reduction), salt intake (30% reduction), high blood pressure (25% reduction), and halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

Overall, the findings suggest that meeting the targets for all six risk factors would reduce the risk of dying prematurely from the four main NCDs by 22% in men and 19% for women in 2025 compared to what they were in 2010. Worldwide, this improvement is equivalent to delaying or preventing at least 16 million deaths in people aged 30󈞲 years and 21 million in those aged 70 years or older over 15 years.

The authors predict that the largest benefits will come from reducing high blood pressure and tobacco use. They calculate that a more ambitious 50% reduction in prevalence of smoking by 2025, rather than the current target of 30%, would reduce the risk of dying prematurely by more than 24% in men and by 20% in women.

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May 3, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

New report highlights need for action on health in the aftermath of war

From the 31 December 2011 Eureka News Alert

Issue of noncommunicable diseases in post-conflict countries must be addressed

Countries recovering from war are at risk of being left to their own devices in tackling non communicable diseases, leaving an “open door” for exploitation by alcohol, tobacco and food companies, health experts warn.

Writing in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Bayard Roberts and Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Preeti Patel, of King’s College London, argue that the post-conflict environment risks increases of mental health problems and other NCDs, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

After exposure to violent and traumatic events, people may be prone to developing harmful health behaviours, such as excessive drinking and smoking, which exacerbate the problem of NCDs in the long-term. This is why the lack of a strong will from the authorities to restore the health system leaves an open door for commercial ventures to influence health policy to their advantage.

The authors write: “This toxic combination of stress, harmful health behaviours and aggressive marketing by multinational companies in transitional settings requires an effective policy response but often the state has limited capacity to do this.”

Afghanistan has no national policy or strategy towards NCDs and, apart from the European Commission, none of its partners has given priority to introduce and support them. High blood pressure is largely untreated in Iraq, three times as many people die prematurely from NCDs in Libya than from infectious diseases and similar patterns can be found in other countries recovering from conflict.

“This policy vacuum provides an open door for multinational companies to influence policies in ways that undermine efforts to control tobacco and alcohol use or improve unhealthy diets in transitional countries,” the experts say.

Little attention is paid in reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to helping countries emerging from conflict deal with their present or future burden of NCDs – with the topic virtually ignored during the United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs in September 2011. The authors argue that this gap must be filled, pointing out that the post-conflict period can provide an opportunity to completely rewrite strategies and undertake reforms to better address the health needs of a population and lay the foundations for a more efficient health system.

Dr Roberts, a lecturer in the European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition at LSHTM, says: “While great attention is rightly paid to infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases should also be given attention –especially as the post-conflict environment can provide the perfect breeding ground for unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking and poor diet. We are making the argument that if the authorities do not step up to lead the way in developing policies which will benefit public health, then they leave the route clear for companies to step in and serve their own interests.”

January 2, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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