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WHO: Addressing the challenge of noncommunicable diseases

Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) - cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic lung diseases and diabetes - kill 3 out of 5 people on the planet, this is over 36 million annually. Alcohol is the second leading cause of NCDs, next to tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity

It is estimated that a quarter of NCD deaths are of people in the prime of their lives, who are under 60.

The First global ministerial conference on healthy lifestyles and NCD control was held in Moscow on 28-29 April. Ministers and national delegations from some 94 Members States participated in the meeting.

The conference highlighted the magnitude and socio economic impact of NCDs and emphasised the need to strengthen global and national initiatives to prevent NCDS as part of national health efforts.

The meeting concluded with the launch of a Moscow declaration

Paragraphs 8 (commitments for action), 9 (rationale for action) and 10 mention alcohol:

Paragraph 8: “Implementing cost-effective policies, such as fiscal policies, regulations and other measures to reduce common risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol;”

Paragraph 10: “Implementing effective policies for NCD prevention and control at national and global levels, including those relevant to achieving the goals of the 2008-2013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, the WHO Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol and the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health;”

For more information please visit: World Health Organization website

The WHO global status report on non-communicable diseases

The report which was launched during the WHO Global Forum on NCDs clearly shows that a large percentage of NCDs could be prevented by reductions in their four main behavioral risk factors; tobacco use, physical inactivity, alcohol and unhealthy diets.

Millions of deaths could be prevented by stronger implementation of measures that exist today. These include policies that promote government-wide action against NCDs: stronger anti-tobacco controls and promoting healthier diets, physical activity, and reducing harmful use of alcohol; along with improving people's access to essential health care.

The Global status report on NCDs provides global, regional and country-specific statistics, evidence, and experiences needed to launch a more forceful response to the growing threat posed by chronic noncommunicable diseases. It provides a baseline to chart future NCD trends and responses in countries, including in terms of its socioeconomic impacts. The report provides advice and recommendations for all countries and pays special attention to conditions in low- and middle-income countries which are hardest hit by NCDs.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17 million people annually, followed by cancer (7.6 million), respiratory disease (4.2 million), and diabetes (1.3 million). These four groups of diseases account for around 80% of all NCD deaths, and share four common risk factors:

  • tobacco use
  • physical inactivity
  • the harmful use of alcohol and
  • poor diets.


Almost 6 million people die from tobacco use each year, both from direct tobacco use and second-hand smoke. By 2020, this number will increase to 7.5 million, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths.Smoking is estimated to cause about 71 percent of lung cancer, 42 percent of chronic respiratory disease and nearly 10 percent of cardiovascular disease.


Approximately 3.2 million people die each year due to insufficient physical activity. People who do not take enough exercise have a 20 to 30 percent increased risk of dying prematurely.
Regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, and of diabetes, breast and colon cancer and depression. Insufficient physical activity is highest in high-income countries, but very high levels are now also seen in some middle-income countries specially among women.


Around 2.5 million die each year from the harmful use of alcohol, accounting for about 3.8 percent of all deaths in the world. More than half of these deaths occur from NCDs including cancer, cardiovascular disease and liver cirrhosis. While adult per capita consumption is highest in high-income countries, it is also high in populous upper-middle-income countries.


At least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Risks of heart disease, strokes and diabetes increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI). Raised BMI also increases the risk of certain cancers.Eating healthy amounts of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk for heart disease, and stomach and colorectal cancer.Most populations consume much higher levels of salt than recommended by WHO; high salt consumption is a key risk factor for high blood pressure and heart disease.High consumption of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids is also linked to heart disease.