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Chronic Diseases: The World's Leading Killer

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the world. Yet health experts say these conditions are often the most preventable. Chronic diseases include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and lung disorders.

The World Health Organization says chronic diseases lead to about seventeen million early deaths each year. The United Nations agency expects more than three hundred eighty million people to die of chronic diseases by two thousand fifteen. It says about eighty percent of the deaths will happen in developing nations.

The W.H.O. says chronic diseases now cause two-thirds of all deaths in the Asia-Pacific area. In ten years it could be almost three-fourths. People are getting sick in their most economically productive years. In fact, experts say chronic diseases are killing more middle-aged people in poorer countries than in wealthier ones.

The W.H.O. estimates that chronic diseases will cost China alone more than five hundred thousand million dollars in the next ten years. That estimate represents the costs of medical treatment and lost productivity. Russia and India are also expected to face huge economic losses.

Kim Hak-Su is the head of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Last week in Bangkok he presented a W.H.O. report on the problem. It says deaths from chronic diseases have increased largely as the result of economic gains in many countries.

The report details the latest findings from nine countries. They include Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, India and Nigeria. The others are Pakistan, Russia and Tanzania.

Mister Kim says infectious and parasitic diseases have until recently been the main killers in Asia and the Pacific. But he says they are no longer the major cause of death in most countries.

Health officials say as many as eighty percent of deaths from chronic diseases could be prevented. They say an important tool for governments is to restrict the marketing of alcohol and tobacco to young people. Also, more programs are needed to urge healthy eating and more physical activity.

U.N. officials aim through international action to reduce chronic-disease deaths by two percent each year through two thousand fifteen. They say meeting that target could save thirty-six million lives. That includes twenty-five million in Asia and the Pacific.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.