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Curbing World’s Most Fatal Diseases: Health Experts Offer a New Global Prescription


Several of the world’s most eminent health scientists and organizations today published a landmark global consensus on the 20 foremost measures needed to curb humanity’s most fatal diseases, their study featured in Nature magazine.

Known as chronic, non-communicable diseases, they are reaching world epidemic proportions and include cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), several cancers, chronic respiratory conditions and Type 2 diabetes.

In their paper for Nature, the 19 authors (list appended) say chronic non-communicable diseases:

* Cause the greatest share of death and disability worldwide;
* Account for over 60 percent of deaths worldwide, four-fifths of those fatalities being citizens of low and middle income countries;
* Cause twice as many deaths as the combined total of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and peri-natal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies.

“While infectious diseases are often associated with developing nations, the major burden of illness for most of them will soon be the non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, which afflict the developed countries,” says Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, vice president for academic health affairs, Emory University, a study author and a member of the Grand Challenges executive committee. “The earlier the known risks for these diseases are addressed, the bigger the impact on their huge looming human and financial burden.”

Researchers used the structured consensus-building “Delphi” technique to create the “Grand Challenges in Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs)”--a distillation of informed opinions drawn from 155 panel members across 50 nations, carefully selected from recommendations.

Study authors say the result is an authoritative list of the 20 most important challenges today to restraining and reversing the toll of these slow killer illnesses. The list of Grand Challenges is accompanied by research priorities for meeting them, drawn from the study data and finalized by 27 leading world health figures guiding the project (list appended).

CNCDs, defined by the WHO as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and certain cancers, are largely preventable. It’s estimated that eliminating key risk factors (poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking) would prevent 80 percent of heart disease, strokes and Type 2 diabetes, and over 40 percent of cancer cases.

The initiative’s leaders say their goals are “to galvanize the health, science and public policy communities into action on this epidemic,” and to foster global debate, support and funding.

Leading partners behind the project are the McLaughlin-Rotman Center (MRC) for Global Health (University Health Network and University of Toronto), Toronto; the Oxford Health Alliance (OxHA), London; the UK Medical Research Council (UK MRC), London; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Ottawa; and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda.


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