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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

WHO studies impact of chronic disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) report, ‘Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment’ says global action to prevent chronic disease could save the lives of 36m people who would otherwise be dead by 2015.

Currently, chronic diseases – heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes – are by far the leading cause of death in the world and their impact is steadily growing. The report projects that approximately 17m people die prematurely each year as a result of the global epidemic of chronic disease.

WHO says the global epidemic of chronic disease must be stopped. Contrary to common perception, this largely invisible epidemic is worst in low- and middle-income countries, where 80% of all chronic disease deaths occur. The report details the latest findings from nine countries: Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the UK, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The report also provides new projections for the economic impact of chronic diseases. For example, China, India, and the Russian Federation could forgo billions of dollars in national income over the next ten years as a result of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. The estimated accumulated losses to China from 2005 to 2015, for example, are $558bn, for India $236bn, and $303bn for the Russian Federation.In 2005 alone, it is estimated that the UK will lose 2bn dollars in national income from premature deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (reported in international dollars to account for differences in purchasing power between countries). These losses are projected to continue to increase: cumulatively, the UK stands to lose 33bn dollars over the next ten years from premature deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. WHO says at least 80% of premature heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer could be prevented through healthy diet, regular physical activity, and avoidance of tobacco products. Cost-effective interventions exist: the most successful strategies have employed a range of population-wide approaches combined with interventions for individuals.

More at www.who.int/chp/en/