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Lifestyle diseases could kill 388 million by 2015

Scientists reveal a plan to halt the number of deaths caused by "lifestyle" diseases by 2015

Scientists from the UK Medical Research Council, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have revealed a plan to halt the number of deaths caused by "lifestyle" diseases by 2015.

The experts say that 388 million people globally will die over the next decade from non-communicable diseases which are now reaching epidemic proportions. They add that 80 per cent of these deaths will occur in poorer countries.

Heart disease, lung conditions, diabetes and cancers together account for 44 per cent of premature deaths, or twice as many as from all infectious diseases combined, according to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The scientists said in a commentary in the UK journal Nature: "The prevention of disability and death from chronic non-communicable diseases (CNDCs) gets scant attention."

The lifestyle behaviours cited are obesity, lack of exercise and smoking. Most of the diseases targeted by the initiative could be averted by changing behaviour and access to known drug treatments, say the scientists.

The fact that people are living longer, however, is also causing some of the diseases, especially cancer, the scientists added. Despite this, 17 million of the deaths that could be averted through the recommended measures would be among people under 70 years old.

The plan closely models the Grand Challenges in Global Health programme targeting infectious disease, which was inaugurated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003.

Entitled "Grand Challenges", the scheme lists 20 policy and research priorities to reduce the death toll from CNDCs:

ï raising awareness of CNCDs and promoting healthy lifestyles among governments and the public

ï strengthening regulations to discourage consumption of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods

ï developing codes to monitor responsible conduct in the food, beverage and restaurant industries

ï conducting studies that explore the links between CNCDs, poverty and urbanisation

ï redistributing health care resources based on burden of diseases

ï increasing the emphasis on prevention

30th September 2008

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