Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean RegionNon-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are now causing more damage than communicable diseases, globally killing approximately 40 million persons annually, three-quarters of which occur in low and middle-income countries. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental disorders have now been confirmed as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Unfortunately, this reality is no different in the Caribbean. According to the Pan American Journal of Public Health, every year 16,000 persons prematurely succumb to Non-Communicable Diseases in the Caribbean region. In fact, over 70% of all deaths in the region can be traced back to an NCD. Such a record has lasting effects, significantly stunting economic growth and productivity, and has been brought to the alarming attention of health authorities. While the exact reasons for such high mortality rates still remain an ongoing point of research and discussion, risk factors, including tobacco smoking, harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and physical instability, have been found to significantly contribute to the mortality of NCDs in the Caribbean Region. Furthermore, the lack of improvement in the quality of available health care has also been identified as one of the leading causes of the rise in NCD prevalence, case-fatality rate and mortality burden in the Caribbean region.

Investment in Prevention and Control of NCDs

For a long time, regional leaders wrote off deaths associated with NCD as unavoidable. However, the impacts of the NCD epidemic in the region have been found to be much more far-reaching than just health and well-being. Moreover, the existing NCD epidemic has served as a catalyst for negative ripple effects on the economies, productivity and quality of life in the region. Investing in the prevention and control of NCDs is therefore needed to keep other indicators of economic growth and development in check.

Existing Policy Action to Address the NCD Epidemic

Caribbean leaders have put forward outstanding effort and measurements to curb the growing costs associated with NCDs. While sticking with the timeline has proven to be quite a challenge, the regional health authorities have set the following paths and goals toward slowing the progression of its NCD epidemic:

  • The 2007 Mandates of the Port of Spain Declaration (POSD): This includes 27 commitments to action in the areas of reducing NCD risk factors, which include improving healthcare awareness and quality, increasing development of appropriate legislative frameworks and establishing NCD commissions to provide effective monitoring and evaluation of NCD prevention and control efforts.
  • The World Health Organization’s Best Buys/Investments: WHO has designed a set of affordable, cost-effective and evidence-based interventions termed the “WHO Best Buys” to achieve the Sustainable Development Target of 30% reduction of premature NCD related deaths by 2030. Made up of six policy target areas: tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, poor diet, low physical activity, management of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes and cancer management, the regional health authorities have set out to generate a $7 yield in health care costs for every $1 invested in Caribbean health care reform by 2030. Additionally, with 16 areas of targeted intervention to guide the policy decisions of each country in the region, countries can design their health policy to address their specific NCD related challenges.
  • Global WHO 25 x25 Strategy: After the 2007 mandate of the POSD in the Caribbean, the World Health Assembly set a global target of a 25% reduction in NCD related mortality by 2025. Set as a part of the WHO’s Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020, the WHO detailed a total of nine voluntary national targets, with reduced mortality from NCDs and stopping the rise in diabetes and obesity being among the most urgent. This is set to be done through directed health and public policy, focusing on social, political and economic determinants of NCDs in the Caribbean Region.

With continued health policy effort and focus, both the Caribbean Region and the world at large will be able to successfully control this Non-Communicable Diseases epidemic.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in GuyanaThe catalyst for improvement of Guyana’s healthcare system was the HIV/AIDs crisis, which was difficult to manage as a result of the country’s insufficient healthcare system. Since then, however, healthcare in Guyana has improved substantially. Some of the most notable improvements to Guyana’s healthcare system include an increase in life expectancy, increased immunization coverage, increased education and awareness surrounding health issues and decreased infant mortality rates.

“Health Vision 2020”

Healthcare in Guyana is comprised of both a public and a private sector. The Ministry of Public Health leads the public healthcare sector, which functions as a universal healthcare system for all citizens and residents of Guyana. In 2013, the World Health Organization, in combination with Guyanese government agencies and other key stakeholders, created “Health Vision 2020,” a national health strategy enacted to improve the standard of living in Guyana.

Since the strategy’s enactment in 2013, Guyana has seen an impressive decline in the number of reported malaria cases, which once presented an overwhelming threat to the wellbeing of the population. In 2013, there were 31,479 reported cases of malaria. Just two years later in 2015, Guyana minimized the threat of malaria, reporting only 9,984 cases.

Over a slightly longer period of time, Guyana also saw an increase in life expectancy, progressing from 59 years for males in 1992 to 63 years in 2011. In 1992, females were expected to live for 66 years, while in 2011 female life expectancy reached 69 years. Also notable is the improvement made in the number of children receiving an immunization to measles. The percentage of children who received the measles vaccine amounted to 99% in 2012, up from 73% in 1992.

Although the improvements made to Guyana’s healthcare system are commendable, particularly under “Health Vision 2020,” there are still many issues that Guyana’s healthcare system overlooks.

Equitable Healthcare for Hinterland Communities

Though universal healthcare does exist in Guyana, free healthcare facilities and resources are generally catered to reach the majority of the population. Almost 90% of Guyana’s population lives in coastal areas, whereas only about 10% of the population lives in the rural hinterlands. As a result, there is a far greater concentration of healthcare facilities and resources in the coastal areas. Access to healthcare for those living in the hinterlands of Guyana is limited, given that there are few healthcare clinics located outside of coastal areas. Healthcare clinics located in remote areas offer services inferior in quality.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Guyana’s healthcare system has also been unable to curb the effects of non-communicable diseases. In 2012, non-communicable diseases made up the top five leading causes of death in Guyana. Still today, some of the leading causes of deaths in Guyana include ischaemic heart disease and diabetes. In 2015 alone, diabetes was responsible for 9% of the total deaths in Guyana.

Although non-communicable diseases are non-transmissible, it is possible to reduce the number of those with these diseases, particularly through education and awareness. Many non-communicable diseases are caused by high intake levels of alcohol, tobacco, salt, sugar and a lack of physical inactivity. Heightened public awareness of the causes of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in Guyana would likely reduce the number of those infected.

Healthcare Workforce

While Guyana has managed to recruit more than 500 trained doctors and physicians over the last five years, shortages in the workforce “exist in areas such as registered nurses and nurse midwives, radiographers, medical technologists and social workers.” Part of the problem stems from a lack of incentives for healthcare workers to stay in the public sector and as practitioners in the country. There is also a lack of foreign expertise in the Guyanese healthcare system. Foreign doctors often offer valuable knowledge, especially when dealing with diseases and viruses that might be less common in Guyana.

What Is Being Done?

The Organization for Social and Health Advancement for Guyana and The Caribbean (OSHAG) is a nonprofit organization based in Queens, New York, that demonstrates the possibility for effective solutions to these pressing issues. The organization strives to raise awareness about the need for improved medical services and treatment in Guyana, specifically for cancer patients. OSHAG raises awareness through health education and gatherings of medical professionals with valuable skills to offer to patients in Guyana.

In 2014, OSHAG’s team of medical professionals provided training to nurses within four of the 1o regions that make up Guyana. The team worked to improve the chemotherapy and oncology department at the Guyana Georgetown Public Hospital. Though the organization specifically aims to improve treatment, services and facilities for cancer patients, OSHAG’s impressive leadership and methodology demonstrate what is possible for healthcare in Guyana. With increased awareness, education and foreign interest and investment, healthcare in Guyana can undoubtedly reach new heights.

Though Guyana has made impressive improvements to its healthcare system, there is still room for improvement. Unequal access to healthcare services and facilities, non-communicable diseases and an understaffed healthcare workforce present some of the most pressing problems. However, each of these problems can be addressed through heightened public awareness and education, and increased financial investment and foreign relations.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus
Belarus is a former member of the Soviet Union, located between Russia, Poland and Lithuania. Like most post-Soviet states, Belarus has experienced substantial economic and societal problems since attaining sovereignty. The country has developed under a dictatorship and today Belarus has virtually full employment and an official poverty rate of less than six percent. However, the country still faces significant obstacles to public health and economic development. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus

  1. There is a Stark Gender Gap: The first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus is that the average life expectancy is 73 years, but there is a significant disparity in life expectancy between males and females. While women in Belarus have an average life expectancy of 79 years, men in the country live until only 67.8 on average. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus. While a genetic predisposition is typically the leading risk factor for non-communicable disease, lifestyle choices are commonly to blame in Belarus. The biggest risk factors for both Belarusian men and women are alcohol consumption, tobacco use and a lack of exercise.
  2. Alcoholism is a Major Problem: Belarus is one of the heaviest alcohol consuming countries in the world. In 2010, Belarusian males consumed an average of almost 29 liters of pure alcohol per capita annually. By 2016, this number was down to 18 liters per capita, which was still triple the global average. Alcohol abuse has concrete consequences for life expectancy in Belarus as alcohol consumption was the cause of over half of liver disease in Belarus in 2016.
  3. There is a Culture of Male Tobacco Use: Almost half of all adult men in Belarus smoke daily, while less than 10 percent of women do. Despite laws establishing an age minimum of 18 for purchasing tobacco, one in every 20 boys between 10 and 14 years old identified themselves as daily smokers in 2016 alone. That same year, tobacco use related to over a quarter of deaths from non-communicable diseases among males in Belarus.
  4. Men Often Die Early: Premature death is very common, particularly among males, skewing data for the average life expectancy for men in Belarus. In contemporary Belarus, an average of close to 40 percent of men dies prematurely between the ages of 30 and 70. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus, accounting for almost 90 percent of all mortalities and the vast majority of premature deaths.
  5. Belarus Guarantees Health Care: The Constitution of Belarus guarantees that the government will provide free, accessible health care to all Belarusians. This does not translate into universally free health care but does include free emergency care, vaccinations, hospital stays and childbirth. According to the 2019 Bloomberg Health Efficiency Index, Belarus ranks within the top 50 most efficient health care systems globally.
  6. Suicide is Prevalent: In 2019, Belarus had the fifth-highest suicide rate in the world. Further, men were reportedly six times more at risk than women. This is largely linked to alcoholism, which is far more common among Belarusian men than women.
  7. Premature Death Hurts Economically and Demographically: According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, the loss of productivity and government expenditure associated with premature deaths cost the Belarusian economy over five percent of its GDP every year. Belarus is one of the fastest shrinking countries due to its net population decline of 750,000 since 1990.
  8. Substance Abuse is a Rural Problem: Rural regions of Belarus, particularly those bordering Russia and Lithuania, experience many alcohol-related deaths at a disproportionate level. This is largely due to increased poverty, which fuels the widespread production of homemade alcohol. One of the first-ever studies on rural alcoholism and homemade alcohol took place in 2016, but due to its significant impact on life expectancy in Belarus, as well as its unregulated nature, the government has made the alcohol black market a legislative priority.
  9. Many Slavic Countries Have Similar Problems: Russia, Belarus’s closest ally, has higher rates of suicide, substance abuse and premature mortality than its neighbor. It has a similar gender gap in life expectancy and is also experiencing a decline in population. Belarus’ cultural, political and geographic proximity to countries like Russia, which have similar cultures of unhealthiness, strengthen may of its problems.
  10. The Government Has Made Steps: The government of Belarus has taken action recently to improve the country’s health standards. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that the total alcohol consumption per capita had fallen to just 10 liters. In February 2019, the Belarusian president instituted new regulations on the tobacco industry in order to decrease its use, particularly around children.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus show that the tradition of substance abuse impacts the country’s life expectancy gravely, which Belarus largely ignored until recent years. Belarus’ robust health care system shows that the government has an interest in public health. Until recent years, state-run and international health organizations alike had difficulty combating the country’s culture of unhealthiness. This has become a clear governmental priority as reflected in the gradual shift toward more restricted access to tobacco and alcohol.

Since 2015, more studies on alcoholism in Belarus have published than ever before, and the issues of premature death and life expectancy have become common pieces of the national dialogue. Although Belarus has not yet definitively solved the problem of premature death and substance abuse, the country is certainly on the right path to reversing its health trends.

Daniel Rothberg
Photo: Flickr

China’s life expectancy has increased dramatically since 1990. The life expectancy in the country in the 1990s was more similar to that of the developing world, but recently, it resembles that of a high-income nation. China has managed to reduce its burden of disease in the last few decades and has increased its child mortality rate and maternal health dramatically. In the text below, top 10 facts about life expectancy in China are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in China

  1. Newborns from the United States can expect to have a longer lifespan than Chinese newborns. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that Chinese newborns have a healthier life expectancy and that, in the last 10 years of a life of U.S. citizens, health declines steadily. Chinese citizens can expect to live 68.7 healthy years, compared with 68.5 healthy years for U.S. citizens.
  2. China has the potential to lift its life expectancy by three years. This is only possible, however, if the country lowers its smog levels to WHO standards. China has taken strides towards reducing their air pollution and has vowed to reduce the impact of its air pollution in order to raise life expectancy to 79 years 2030.
  3. China has raised its life expectancy from 69.3 years in 1990 to 76.1 years in 2015. The leading factors for this substantial rise is the improvement in China’s child mortality rate and their maternal health. Child deaths due to lower respiratory infections and diarrhea have decreased by 90 percent since 1990.
  4. Tuberculosis (TB) is a major burden for China. The country has over a million new cases each year, more than any country except India.
  5. China carries 10 percent of the global burden of tuberculosis and the presence of drug-resistant TB makes battling the disease that much more difficult.
  6. China faces around 1.6 million premature deaths due to smog and air pollution. This poisonous air pollution is a combination of factories that emit dangerous particles, car pollutants and urban traffic, and indoor pollution in rural areas. Although the country has cut down on their air pollution, some fear that the damage has already affected adults and will continue to affect the vulnerable immune systems of the elderly citizens.
  7. China has made strides in reducing the cases of tuberculosis. TB incidence rate in the country has been declining by 3.4 percent every year since 1990. This rapid decline is due to government implemented programs that focus on the prevention and control of TB.
  8. Some researches show that there was an 11.2 percent difference in income inequality in the country. This kind of inequality can lead to varying life expectancies in different areas of China. It also means that each region faces different kinds of health problems. While one has eradicated an infectious and fatal disease, another may be still suffering under the burden of it.
  9. Tobaccos are one of the highest risk factors in the country. Chinese women use tobacco at an extremely low rate, but a majority of Chinese men smoke regularly and the exposure to secondhand smoke in the country is 72 percent. It has been discovered that there has been a 30 percent rise in tobacco-related deaths in the country since 1990.
  10. As China has reduced the burden of disease, child mortality and maternal health, new problems have arisen. These problems are non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These are chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or epilepsy. They cannot be passed on from one person to another, but have a great impact on a person’s quality and length of life. There are 15 million annual deaths attributed to NCDs in the country and 85 percent of those occur in low or middle-income countries.

China has made great strides in its mission to increase life expectancy and quality of life. However, the country still faces issues such as inequality, air pollution, tuberculosis and NCDs. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in China provide hope for an ever-increasing life expectancy in a nation that has risen out of poverty and ill-health.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Pixabay

Reducing Non-Communicable DiseasesNon-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness, are responsible for 70 percent of all deaths globally. Despite their prevalence, NCDs receive less than 2 percent of all global health aid funding.

The percentage of NCDs among the global population is expected to rise. It is estimated that in the next two decades, $47 trillion will be lost globally to non-communicable diseases.

There is disparity between disease burden and funding. The recent Ebola epidemic that impacted primarily West African regions caused 11,000 deaths and received nearly $74 million from U.S. funding by 2016. NCDs make up half of the global disease burden. U.S. Congress has no specifically designated funding to address NCDs in low- and middle-income countries.

Why are NCDs disproportionally underfunded?

  1. Evidence of cost-effectiveness. Prevention and treatment efforts of many communicable diseases provide concrete data— vaccines, for example, boast a very substantial, quantifiable value for lives saved. On the other hand, prevention and cure rates are far more difficult to quantify with NCDs, making it far more difficult to measure cost-effectiveness.
  2. Treatment is long-term. Few non-communicable diseases are easily cured or prevented by one treatment. Most require monitoring and medication administered over a lengthy period of time. Health issues with no guarantee of resolution (such as cancer) often struggle to find funding.
  3. Research is limited. Both the treatment and research of NCDs are underfunded, making research less accessible and comprehensive global approaches unestablished.
  4. Lack of media coverage. “The media tend to focus on rare and dramatic events,” says Meredith Young, a former graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University. ” Due to the nature of infectious diseases, like HIV and Ebola, these diseases are more likely to receive in-depth media coverage. A story on heart disease (which is developed slowly, is more common and has more subtle side effects) do not receive the same emphasis.
  5. The connection between lifestyle habits and NCDs. While the development of NCDs can have a myriad of genetic, geographic and socioeconomic factors, their prevention and treatment are often connected to lifestyle changes and habits. “If we look at interventions taking place in the NCDs space, many are outside of what might be strictly referred to as ‘health aid’,” reports WhyDev. A sports program may be used to reduce the impact of NCDs, demonstrating the need to understand the types of interventions that positively impact the impact of NCDs.
  6. Few hands. The majority of global healthcare aid comes from a small handful of wealthy donors, and the realities and stigmas surrounding non-communicable diseases have a major impact on funding allocations.

Reducing Non-Communicable Diseases

There is promise for reducing non-communicable diseases. Since there are many factors that contribute to developing an illness like heart disease—including diet, exercise and smoking habits—there are many opportunities to lower risk through a wide range of interventions.

Take, for instance, tobacco control. There is a strong correlation between tobacco use and the development of non-communicable diseases. Increasing funding for smoking prevention and cessation programs could dramatically decrease cancer and heart disease rates.

Additionally, incorporating exercise into schools and daily routines can have enormous benefits in improving cardiovascular fitness and reducing obesity.

Movements demanding greater acknowledgement of NCDs have also gained traction in recent years. In February of 2013, the World Bank published a paper titled ‘Non-Communicable Diseases Series’, building on the previous Millennium Development Goals that excluded NCDs as a global issue. The aim of the new series is to contribute to reducing the NCD mortality rate by 2025.

While there are obstacles in the way of effectively distributing healthcare aid, the momentum for reducing non-communicable diseases is gaining attention and traction, paving the path for long-term, global solutions.

Kailey Dubinsky

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in SpainLocated on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has a population of 46.56 million. Similar to patterns around the world, morbidity and disability in Spain are increasingly caused by non-communicable diseases. Below are five common diseases in Spain.

  1. Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 33 percent of deaths in Spain. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. In Spain, about 23.9 percent of adults and 21.7 percent of youth smoke. About 26.6 percent of Spaniards are obese.
  2. Neoplasms
    Following world trends, the number of cancer cases in Spain increased 15 percent between 2012 and 2015. The most common types of cancer in Spain are bowel cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer. Respectively, every year there are 41,000, 33,000, 28,000, 27,000 and 21,000 new cases. It is estimated that about one-third of these cases can be prevented through improved lifestyle choices such as reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, increasing cancer screenings and decreasing obesity rates.
  3. Chronic Respiratory Diseases
    Chronic respiratory diseases most common in Spain include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. About 80,000 adults aged 20 to 44 are diagnosed with asthma every year. Eighty percent of these cases do not result from allergies and instead result from lung disorders developed from chewing and smoking tobacco, obesity, air pollution, respiratory infections suffered during childhood, genetics and high risk occupations. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes 18,000 deaths per year in Spain or about 50 deaths per day. There are about two million people in the country with COPD but the majority go undiagnosed. A main cause of COPD is smoking. About one-third of Spaniards smoke, and 40 to 55 percent continue to smoke following COPD diagnosis. COPD can lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  4. Mental and Behavioral Disorders
    Mental illnesses are the second most common cause of temporary and permanent leave from work in Spain. Depression is the most prevalent. About five to 10 percent of Spaniards suffer at least one depressive episode in their lives. Depression and other mental health illnesses have high social impacts because of missed work, costs, morbidity and care.
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease
    In Spain, more than 800,000 people live with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. Risk factors include age, genetics, mild cognitive impairment and traumatic brain injury. Studies also suggest that education may be linked to Alzheimer’s as well as cardiovascular disease. Between 2005 and 2015, the death rate due to Alzheimer’s increased by 11.9 percent.

Certain cases of the above diseases in Spain can be prevented. For example, smoking is a prevalent cause of non-communicable diseases such as asthma, COPD, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Because of this, improving health education in Spain is one way to reduce and prevent these unnecessary medical costs, illnesses and deaths.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Pixabay

Avoiding Common Diseases in BarbadosBarbados, the Caribbean island that rests the furthest east into the Atlantic Ocean, has a diverse population of about 280,000 people. English is the official language and the island has a literacy rate of nearly 100 percent, one of the highest literacy rates worldwide. Barbadians also enjoy high water quality, which reduces the number of waterborne illnesses that affect many other Caribbean countries. However, there are several common diseases in Barbados to be aware of.

The disease with the largest fatal impact in Barbados is cancer, comprising 29 percent of deaths. Cardiovascular diseases come in at a close second as the reason for 28 percent of deaths. All non-communicable diseases together are estimated to cause 84 percent of deaths, and most of the time other common diseases in Barbados cause more pain and inconvenience than fatalities. Tourists should be aware of hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid fever, chikungunya and malaria when preparing to visit Barbados and should take all possible precautions to avoid contracting one of these illnesses.

Zika, the disease that caused a mass panic in 2016, has been reported to be active in Barbados. Spread by mosquitoes, those who contract the virus often do not suffer any symptoms. When sickness occurs, it tends to be mild. The disease has caused fear due to its link to congenital disabilities, which can in some cases be extremely serious. Expectant mothers or women who expect to become pregnant should be particularly wary of this virus and avoid traveling to Barbados.

Barbados has also been suffering from a syphilis outbreak for the past six years. Most victims are male, with an average age of 34 years. Cases of syphilis have stabilized in the last biennium, but doctors still advise travelers and citizens to only engage in sexual activity in a safe manner. This STD is one of the common diseases in Barbados and can be extremely severe if left unchecked.

The number of cases of dengue fever, a painful infection that causes a high fever, nausea and headaches, has risen significantly in Barbados since 2015. The disease, like the Zika virus and chikungunya, is spread by mosquito bite. Those living in and visiting the country should take precautions against mosquito bites to avoid these common diseases in Barbados.

With proper care and preparation, most of the common diseases in Barbados can be prevented.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Maldives
The top diseases in the Maldives mirror those in much of the rest of the globe. Non-communicable illnesses dominate the majority of the diseases in the Maldives. However, at 77 years, life expectancy in the Maldives is much better than the majority of the world. In addition, the annual mortality rate among healthy people in the Maldives is 578 per 100,000 people. This is with a very small population of around 400,000.

Worldwide, there needs to be more of a focus and research on cardiovascular diseases. It impacts hundreds of thousands of individuals every year, and it is the most common disease in the Maldives. Of all the major diseases, 37% of them are various types of cardiovascular disease.

The majority of the top diseases in the Maldives are non-communicable, including different cardiovascular diseases. Some of the other non-communicable diseases that impact the Maldives included chronic respiratory diseases, which have a mortality rate of just over 9%. Mortality rates for diabetes and other blood and endocrine diseases sit at just over 8%. Cancer is a major disease around the world that is receiving a lot of research, and the mortality rate in the Maldives is sitting at 7.5%.

Unintentional injuries also have a high spot on the list of mortality rates at just over 7%. Additionally, self-harm is just over 2%. Injuries seem to be a lot higher on lists than other countries around the world and are avoidable. The unintentional injuries are tough to prevent, but self-harm is preventable with proper help and care.

One of the most common communicable diseases is neonatal disorders (6% mortality rate). Additionally, diarrhea and lower respiratory diseases have a 5% mortality rate. These are rarely seen around the world.

Risk factors in the country include tobacco smoking, with 42% of current male smokers at risk and only 7% of females at risk of medical problems caused by tobacco smoking. Elevated blood pressure is also a problem, with 23% of the country having blood pressure problems. The other major risk factor in the Maldives is obesity.

Zika is still a major concern in the Maldives, so there are many precautions for individuals visiting the area. Travelers need to be aware of other diseases in the area and have their vaccinations up-to-date before entering the Maldives.

Non-communicable diseases dominate the list of top diseases in the Maldives. There needs to be more of a focus on preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases in this region.

Brendin Axtman
Photo: Flickr

 Diseases in Africa
Communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are still the biggest health concerns in Africa. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2030, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) will become the leading cause of death in Africa. Currently, only two percent of all donor funding goes to chronic diseases. NCDs in Africa is an issue that deserves more attention.

Non-communicable diseases in Africa include diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as cancer. These diseases often stem from unhealthy lifestyles, like diet, smoking, drinking and physical inactivity. These behaviors can cause high blood pressure, weight gain, respiratory ailments, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

NCDs are already the leading cause of death in most regions of the world. These diseases cause the deaths of 38 million people each year and almost three-quarters of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Projections show that NCDs in Africa will see the biggest growth globally in the next few decades.

Widespread chronic illness is detrimental to the economy and poverty reduction initiatives in developing countries because they result in decreased labor outputs, lower returns on human capital investments and increased healthcare costs. Non-communicable diseases should thus be afforded more attention in discussions about alleviating global poverty.

There are several initiatives working to address the issue of NCDs and the impact they will have on developing countries. The WHO created a Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which focuses on national actions to address harmful lifestyle choices that cause NCDs. This includes the taxation of tobacco and alcohol products and targets education programs on healthy living.

However, the increase in cases of non-communicable diseases in Africa will also require more resources to strengthen and adapt healthcare systems to deal with the growing disease burden. In 2014, only 49% of African countries reported that they have the necessary funds for the early detection, screening and treatment of NCDs.

One program working to solve this issue is Access Accelerated, a partnership between the World Bank, the Union of International Cancer Control and more than 20 pharmaceutical companies. The Access Accelerated initiative aims to address the access barriers to NCD medicines in low-income countries. Novartis Access, for example, is providing 15 NCD treatments in Kenya at $1.00 per treatment per month. This program will roll out in 30 other developing countries over the next few years.

Providing affordable medicines is just one of the aspects of creating sustainable solutions to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in Africa. Other priorities include training healthcare workers to deal with NCDs, educating local communities about these diseases and improving healthcare infrastructure and distribution networks in rural areas.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

The devastating effects of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can be seen all around the globe. NCDs are responsible for the majority of deaths in developing countries, and they are not receiving the attention they need in order to be stopped.

NCDs are diseases that cannot be passed from person to person. Also known as chronic diseases, they last a long time and progress slowly. The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. They can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity, location or income.

However, the distribution of NCDs is not so equally spread. 80 percent of deaths caused by NCDs occur in low and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As well as being concentrated in areas of poverty, NCDs have a large global impact. Sixty-eight percent of global deaths in 2012 were due to NCDs, and 42 percent were premature (before the age of 70) and avoidable, the WHO reports.

The combination of the prevalence of these diseases with the location (countries that are unable to help themselves), means that this problem is quickly growing out of control. Disease-specific solutions are being administered (vaccinations for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) in lieu of improving conditions so that NCDs are not even given a chance to affect a population.

Of course, vaccinations for communicable diseases are necessary as well, but they cannot be the sole solution in working toward better health. NCDs are proving to be more of a problem globally than other diseases, and, as such, the health conditions in suffering countries need our attention.

It is a fact that when measures are taken to prevent them, NCDs no longer majorly affect an area. This can be seen by the low numbers of deaths caused by NCDs in the U.S.–only 413 per 100,000 population in 2012 versus 967 per 100,000 in Mongolia, according to the WHO.

The difference between the U.S. and these affected countries is fewer risk factors. Tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the top offenders, and lower-income countries lack the capacity to prevent and control these risks.

Although the UN has seen progress with its aid efforts, the focus on NCDs is lost. Goal six of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) lays out the initiative to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, but NCDs are not mentioned in the statistics.

For such a globally present cause of death, it would seem natural that NCDs would be a priority for 2015. However, that is simply not the case.

So, where do we go from here?

We know that if the major risk factors for NCDs were eliminated, around three-quarters of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, as well as 40 percent of cancers, according to the WHO.

Health Affairs argues that Universal health coverage provides the opportunity for these diseases to be eradicated long-term. As far as combating NCDs, people in areas of extreme poverty need to be supplied with ways to obtain the necessary medicines without having to pay out-of-pocket.

More attention needs to be given to making accessible health care in developing countries a reality and taking care of those who are losing their lives due to preventable diseases.

In doing so, we must remember: we can conquer NCDs.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: Health Affairs, UN, WHO, WHO 1, WHO 2, WHO 3, WHO 4