The silent plague of non-communicable diseases
If you don’t work in a medical field or have friends who do, you may never heard of the term ‘non-communicable diseases’. However, they’re the biggest cause of death worldwide. The number of people they kill worldwide is growing every year. People of all ages and in every part of the world are affected by them.
World Health Organisation (“WHO”) statistics show that non-communicable diseases (“NCDs”) kill 41 million people each year, which is 71% of all deaths globally.
What exactly are NCDs?
NCDs are commonly called ‘chronic diseases’. They tend to last for a long period of time and often stem from a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.
The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as asthma) and diabetes. A full list of NCDs shows the size of the problem.
A growing problem
The risk of dying from NCDs can be increased by tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
WHO statistics show that each year 4.1 million deaths are attributed to excessive salt intake. Furthermore, 1.6 million deaths are caused each year by insufficient physical activity.
Most of us know that small changes in our habits such as cooking at home instead of grabbing a take-away, or walking instead of taking the tube, can have a tremendous effect on our long-term health. The small gains can add up to a big difference in life expectancy over a normal lifetime.
The bigger picture
NCDs not only affect individuals they also have a huge socio-economic impact. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a target of reducing premature deaths caused by NCDs (by one-third).
The cost in lost productivity or sickness absence can de difficult to prove, but reducing morbidity and mortality (even by a small percentage) means most wellbeing activities are likely pay for themselves. However, they can take years to make a difference rather than fitting easily into a fiscal or calendar year.
How can we prevent and control NCDs?
We can prevent or control NDCs by focusing on reducing the risk factors associated with the disease. That’s why any wellbeing activities, whatever shape or form they take, are a good idea.
Being more active, eating healthily and reducing any alcohol and tobacco intake are the easiest ways of preventing NCDs.
Governments and businesses also have a role to play to reduce the common modifiable risk factors. At a population level, it makes sense to invest in better NCDs management, such as detecting, screening and treating the diseases.
Targeted health campaigns
To control NCDs, integrated actions across areas that influence health are probably required. That’s hard to achieve on national levels.
Linking wellbeing activities to national or international health campaigns can make it much easier for businesses.
The World Health Organisation has a very handy list of the major international health events each year, which are definitely worth considering, if you want to take steps to reduce health risks amongst your employees.
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