Noncommunicable Diseases


    Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) or Chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the 1st cause of death and disability worldwide.

    The term NCDs refers to a group of conditions that are not mainly caused by an acute infection, result in long-term health consequences and often create a need for long-term treatment and care. These five main NCDs are cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung illnesses and Mental health conditions.

    Many NCDs can be prevented by reducing common risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, physical inactivity and eating unhealthy diets. Many other important conditions are also considered NCDs, including injuries and mental health disorders.

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    WHO Response

    The WHO regional office for Africa promotes, coordinates, and implements technical cooperation activities directed to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), related risk factors, disabilities, and mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders that are sound and appropriate for the culture and society.

    AFRO raises political and public awareness and understanding of the burden of the most common NCDs, related risk factors, mental or neurological conditions, and leads multi-sector and multi-stakeholder strategic and collaborative efforts aimed at strengthening Member States' capacity to promote and protect health through public policies, programs, and services. This will reduce risks and disease burden in order to improve the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of the African population.

    Key Facts:

    • Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally.
    • Each year, more than 15 million people die from a NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; 85% of these "premature" deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
    • 77% of all NCD deaths are in low- and middle-income countries.
    • Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.3 million), respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes (1.5 million).
    • These four groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths.
    • Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from a NCD.
    • Detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.
    Modifiable behavioral risk factors

    Modifiable behaviors, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and the harmful use of alcohol, all increase the risk of NCDs.

    • Tobacco accounts for over 7.2 million deaths every year (including from the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke) and is projected to increase markedly over the coming years. (1)
    • 4.1 million annual deaths have been attributed to excess salt/sodium intake. (1)
    • More than half of the 3.3 million annual deaths attributable to alcohol use are from NCDs, including cancer. (2)
    • 1.6 million deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity. (1)

    Metabolic risk factors

    Metabolic risk factors contribute to four key metabolic changes that increase the risk of NCDs:

    • raised blood pressure
    • overweight/obesity
    • hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) and
    • hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).
    • In terms of attributable deaths, the leading metabolic risk factor globally is elevated blood pressure (to which 19% of global deaths are attributed), followed by overweight and obesity, and raised blood glucose.

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