The prevention and control of non-communicable diseases*

Reducing the major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol – is a critical focus of WHO’s work to prevent deaths from NCDs. 

NCDs – primarily heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes – are the world’s largest killers, with an estimated 38 million deaths annually. Of these deaths, 16 million are premature (under 70 years of age). If we reduce the global impact of risk factors, we can go a long way to reducing the number of deaths worldwide. 

Prevention of NCDs is a growing issue: the burden of NCDs falls mainly on developing countries, where 82% of premature deaths from these diseases occur. Tackling the risk factors will therefore not only save lives; it will also provide a huge boost for the economic development of countries. One of the most important ways of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is to control the risk factors that lead to their development. These include reducing the use of tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol, maintaining an active lifestyle and consuming a healthy diet. Actions towards these goals are cost-effective ways for countries to reduce the number of NCD deaths. Tackling these risk factors can not only save lives, but also provide a huge economic boost for countries. 

Surveillance of NCDs is another vital action for providing the information needed for policy and programme development for NCD prevention and control. Tracking and reporting on NCD related global targets and indicators to understand progress in NCD prevention and control are key activities. Accurate data from countries are vital to reverse the global rise in death and disability from NCDs, to support evidence-based decision making, and to help monitor and evaluate the progress being made.