Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WHO warns of a different type of epidemic for poor nations

The World Health Organization has issued a warning about non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and the capacity of poor nations to treat such diseases. A new report from the WHO says that NCDs are the leading killer in the world, with 80 percent of those deaths happening poor nations. The occurrence of those deaths are more frequent than those due to diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis or HIV.

The WHO explains in the new report how NCDs have reached epidemic proportions and warn that the health care capacity in poor to mid-income nations may not be able to cope with the rise in ill-health. From Reuters, writer Kate Kelland explains this portion of the report to us.

It said the epidemic was already beyond the capacity of poorer countries to cope, which is why death and disability are rising disproportionately in these countries.

"As the impact of NCDs increases and as populations age, annual NCD deaths are projected to continue to rise worldwide, and the greatest increase is expected to be seen in low- and middle-income regions," it added.

In many developing countries where the health focus is often on infectious diseases, chronic illnesses are often detected late, when patients need extensive and expensive hospital care.

Most of this care is unaffordable or unavailable, or is covered with out-of-pocket payments which can drive patients and their families into poverty, further risking their health.

Nearly 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and NCDs are the most frequent causes of death in most countries, except in Africa, the WHO said. Even in Africa, NCDs are rising rapidly and are expected to exceed other diseases as the most common killers by 2020.

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