Preventable Diseases

I call them the diseases of mass destruction!

What are they?

They are preventable conditions that are killing millions of people prematurely.


Because too many of us are living dangerously. Around the world, 56 million people die each year. About 40 per cent of these deaths are due to top 10 preventable conditions. These conditions have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its report released last year. Here is the list:

1. Childhood and maternal underweight rates
2. Unsafe sex
3. High blood pressure
4. Tobacco use
5. Alcohol use
6. Unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene
7. High cholesterol levels
8. Indoor smoke from solid fuels
9. Iron deficiency
10. Obesity

The World Health Report 2002 represents one of the largest research projects ever undertaken by the World Health Organization. In collaborating with experts worldwide, WHO has collected and analyzed evidence that will have implications for global health for many years to come, says the report.

What is the goal of the report?

The ultimate goal is to help governments of all countries to raise the healthy life expectancy of their populations – from the poorest to the richest. Everybody stand to gain another five years or so of healthy life, says the report.

Here are some other important points from the WHO report:
-Health problems of developing countries are worse. For example, at least 30 per cent of all disease burden occurring in many developing countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, results from fewer than five of the ten risks listed above.
-Underweight alone accounts for over three million childhood deaths a year in developing countries.
-In the most industrialized countries of North America, Europe and the Asian Pacific, at least one-third of all disease burden is caused by tobacco, alcohol, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.
-More than three-quarters of cardiovascular disease — the world’s leading cause of death — results from tobacco use, high blood pressure or cholesterol, or their combination.
-High cholesterol causes more than 4 million premature deaths a year.
-Tobacco use causes almost 5 million premature deaths a year.
-High blood pressure causes 7 million premature deaths a year.

If preventive measures are undertaken to combat these diseases of mass destruction then the life expectancy can be increased on average about five years in developed countries and 10 years in developing countries.

In Canada, healthy life expectancy could increase by 6.5 years, from their current 69.9 years to 76.4.

The WHO report says that the cost of inaction is serious. If nothing is done, then most of the premature deaths will probably double by the year 2020.

Inaction should not be on our agenda this year.

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