Urgent action needed to prevent 3m early deaths annually

Updated: 2015-01-19 19:57

By Shan Juan(chinadaily.com.cn)

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More than 3 million people in China die prematurely each year from largely preventable diseases, a report from the World Health Organization said.

In 2012, 38 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) were recorded globally, including an estimated 8.6 million in China, it said.

Alarmingly, the report reveals that nearly 4 in 10 (39%) NCD deaths among Chinese men and around 3 in 10 (31.9%) in Chinese women are premature, occurring before the age of 70.

"The report is a dramatic wake-up call. There is an urgent need for strong action now to stop millions of Chinese men and women dying in their most productive years from diseases that can be prevented simply by changing common unhealthy lifestyle habits: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and not enough physical activity," said Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO representative in China.

The World Bank has estimated that there would be an economic gain of $10.7 trillion between 2010 and 2040 in China, from reducing cardiovascular disease mortality by just 1 percent alone.

NCDs have major costs for individuals, families, health systems, the economy and society more broadly, especially in low and middle income countries which bear a disproportionate share of the burden, experts warned.

Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said in emerging economies such as China, there is a real risk of the economic gains from rapid growth and development being wiped out by losses from premature mortality, low productivity and workforce participation caused by NCDs, if urgent action is not taken to reduce the burden.

Schwartländer agreed, adding: "China is making some progress, in some areas, including the recent strong action we have seen on tobacco control in Beijing and nationally. Once these tobacco control laws are implemented, we expect to see a big impact on the smoking rate in China.

"But more needs to be done to address other causes of the explosion in NCDs in China to stop the tsunami of chronic disease that looms just over the horizon".

According to Schwartländer, investment in health systems, in particular in primary health care services, close to where people live, is also a crucial weapon in the fight against NCDs.

Worldwide, NCDs such as cancer, heart and lung diseases, stroke and diabetes remain the leading cause of death with many of these deaths premature and preventable, according to the report.