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WHO Says Noncommunicable Diseases Responsible For Over 70% Of Deaths Globally

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are responsible for more than 70 percent of all deaths globally.

Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus disclosed this in his opening remarks at a virtual press conference on global health issues held on Wednesday.

Dr. Ghebreyesus said nowhere is the threat of NCDs felt more acutely than in small island states, adding that a new WHO report shows that 8 of the 15 countries with more than a 30 percent risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease are small island countries.

“And the 10 countries with the highest obesity rates globally are all small islands in the Pacific, where over 45 percent of adults live with obesity. Mental health conditions are also common in small island states.

“First to Barbados, where last week, I had the honour to join leaders from Small Island Developing States in Barbados and agreed to the 2023 Bridgetown Declaration on Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health”, he said.

He also noted that the threat of NCDs is exacerbated by the climate crisis, adding that small island states represent 1 percent of the world’s population and economy and emit less than 1 percent of greenhouse gasses, but are disproportionately and severely affected by climate change and natural disasters.

“We cannot afford to ignore the crippling impact of these colliding threats. The Bridgetown declaration is a collective call on all countries to support small island states to address the impact of NCDs and mental health. And it is my call to all leaders and partners to extend their support to them”, he added.

The WHO boss further observed that one of the main risk factors for NCDs is poor nutrition, especially in the earliest stages of life.

Dr. Ghebreyesus added that inadequate breastfeeding increases the risks of childhood obesity, sudden unexplained infant death, leukemia, and maternal diabetes and cancers.

“WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond.

“In the decades following the Second World War, aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes led to significant reductions in rates of exclusive breastfeeding.To respond to this threat, in 1981, WHO Member States adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes”, he further explained.

The Code, according to him, helps to protect health, nutrition, and development in the first years of life, so that parents and caregivers receive sound medical advice, untainted by commercial interests.

He said since the Code was introduced more than forty years ago, there has been clear progress, noting that over 70 percent of countries have enacted legislation that puts in place at least some of the Code’s provisions.

“In the past decade, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding has increased globally by ten percentage points, reaching 48% of children under 6 months – the highest level since we started measuring it in the 1980s.

“But many challenges remain. Little progress has been made in high income countries, where the Code has not been made into effective legislation and, as a result, exclusive breastfeeding rates are stagnating”, he stressed.

He equally pointed out that manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes are also using increasingly sophisticated marketing tactics, including targeted ads on pregnant mothers’ mobile phones, clandestine participation in online baby clubs, or coaxing mothers to market formula to one another.

“Yesterday, experts from around the world met here at WHO headquarters in Geneva for the first Global Congress on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

“The meeting is bringing together delegates from around 130 countries to discuss how to strengthen legislation to counteract industry tactics, and give more children the best start to life”, he further stated.

Dr. Ghebreyesus also noted that the incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades, especially in the Americas, which reported 2.8 million cases and 1280 deaths last year.

He said the WHO is preparing for the very high probability that 2023 and 2024 will be marked by an El Niño event, which could increase transmission of dengue and other so-called arboviruses such as Zika and chikungunya.

“The effects of climate change are also fuelling mosquito breeding and the spread of these diseases. To respond to this threat, WHO last year established the Global Arbovirus Initiative, which aims to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks of these diseases.

“Many of the same capacities that countries established for COVID-19 can also be leveraged for dengue and other diseases. And many of the actions that can prevent dengue are the same actions that can help to prevent so many other diseases, including climate action”, he added.


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