News / Health

UN: Cancers, Diabetes, Heart & Lung Disease Biggest Killers

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)
Margaret Besheer

The U.N. General Assembly has convened a high-level meeting to discuss the world’s biggest killer - non-communicable diseases. Leaders met Monday to discuss how governments can curb the 36 million deaths each year from preventable and treatable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, lung and heart disease.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the two day session with this warning:

“The prognosis is grim," said Ban Ki-moon. "According to the World Health Organization, deaths from NCDs (non-communicable diseases) will increase by 17 percent in the next decade. In Africa, that number will jump by 24 percent. These statistics are alarming - but we know how to drive them down.”

He said the keys to lowering death rates are simple and include increasing exercise, improving nutrition and expanding screening for these diseases.

The secretary-general also urged industry to act responsibly.

“I especially call on corporations that profit from selling processed foods to children to act with the utmost integrity," he said. "I refer not only to food manufacturers, but also the media, marketing and advertising companies that play central roles in these enterprises. Those who profit from alcohol sales have to do their part to promote moderation in alcohol consumption. And we can all work to end tobacco use.”

World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan told the meeting that processed foods which are high in salt, trans fats and sugar have become the new staple food around the world. She said they are readily available and heavily marketed, and for a growing number of people they are the cheapest way to fill hungry stomachs.

But she warned that this trend has led to a disturbing expansion of the world’s waistline - a factor that has contributed to the rise of non-communicable diseases.

“Root causes of these diseases are not being addressed and widespread obesity is the tell tale signal," said Chan. "Worldwide obesity rates have almost doubled since 1980. This is a world in which more than 40 million pre-school children are obese or overweight. This is a world where more than 50 percent of the adult population in some countries is obese or overweight. Obesity is a signal that something is terribly wrong in the policy environment.”

The World Health Organization says that nearly 80 percent of cancers, diabetes, heart and lung disease occur in low and middle income countries. These illnesses also have a debilitating socio-economic effect because when a large percentage of the workforce is sick or dies during their productive years, national economies lose billions of dollars in output and millions of families are pushed into poverty, threatening development.

The long-term financial effect could also be devastating. Margaret Chan warned that a recent World Economic Forum and Harvard University study estimates that over the next 20 years non-communicable diseases could cost the global economy more than $30 trillion.

In a declaration adopted by the 193-member General Assembly, the body recognizes the scope of the problem and calls for urgent action. It says prevention must be the cornerstone of the response and urges governments to strengthen their national polices and health systems to meet the challenge. Among the recommendations are promoting increased access to cost-effective vaccinations and disease screening programs to aid prevention and early detection.

This is only the second time the U.N. General Assembly has taken up a health issue. The first was HIV/AIDS - for which there is no known cure. In the decade since, there has been huge progress on preventing and treating the virus around the world.

You May Like

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Freedom of Press

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs