Despite the pandemic, a new report and portal released by the World Health Organization (WHO) released this alert towards the end of 2022, based on data obtained from 194 countries on non-communicable diseases and their risk factors: smoking, unhealthy eating, harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity and air pollution. According to the experts, "Eliminating these factors could prevent or delay significant health problems and many premature deaths".

For WHO, launching this initiative during the UN General Assembly, was one of the greatest challenges of the century in health and development. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, along with mental health, cause nearly three-quarters of deaths worldwide and kill 41 million people each year.

The report “Invisible numbers: the true extent of noncommunicable diseases and what to do about them” gives visibility to these pathologies and recalls “the true scale” of this threat and the risk factors. This report also shows the cost-effectiveness of globally applicable cost-effective interventions that can change these numbers and save lives and money.

The portal contains the latest data on each country, risk factors and adopted policy, resulting in trends being made visible across countries and allowing comparison across countries or within geographic regions.

According to the WHO, every two seconds, a person under the age of 70 dies from a NCD and 86% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. “This major shift in public health over the last few decades has gone largely unnoticed,” considers the organization.

“The report and the portal come at a critical time for Public Health: in 2022, only a few countries were on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030”, refers the WHO.

Experts claim that prevention and treatment are an “excellent investment opportunity, which will have a numerous impact on economic growth, far outweighing the money spent”.

The report ends with some important conclusions:

Noncommunicable diseases are a huge challenge, affecting economies, families and individuals in every region, country and neighborhood of the world. But in many cases, their negative impacts are not inevitable.

Action to prevent, track, treat and manage NCDs is both aff­ordable and achievable, with economic and social repercussions far beyond health.

Not only would this mean significant improvements in health outcomes, it would also improve financial and social well-being, improve resilience to other diseases such as COVID-19 and benefit many other development goals.

Tackling NCDs is not just about reaching a target. It is an opportunity for governments – for ministries of finance, education, the environment, equality, trade and health, among others – to unlock the many benefits of a healthier, happier and more productive society and to build resilience against COVID-19 and future pandemics.

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