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Kuwait keen to prevent NCDs to save lives
October 20, 2018, 4:26 pm

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as cardiovascular problems, cancers, chronic respiratory ailments and diabetes, are the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2016, NCDs were responsible for 41 million of the total 57 million deaths worldwide.

World is fast approaching the inflection point with regard to NCDs. Unless governments act now they will find it difficult to deliver on the promise they made in 2015 to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, of reducing by one-third the premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment, and promoting mental health and well-being.

Without significant investments now, millions will continue to die unnecessarily from causes that are manageable if not preventable, says the WHO in its latest report on NCDs. The recently published WHO country profile on member states, shows that in Kuwait of the total 11,000 fatalities in 2016, more than 7,900 deaths, or nearly 72 percent, were from NCDs. Of the total NCD fatalities, the largest number of deaths (57%) were on account of cardiovascular diseases, followed by 21 percent from cancers, 4 percent from diabetes, 4 percent from chronic respiratory diseases, and 14 percent from other NCDs.

The WHO report also pointed out that an estimated 9,400 lives in Kuwait could be saved by 2025, if the country were to implement all of the ‘best buys’ recommended to combat NCDs. The high NCD mortality rate in Kuwait, in particular the increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases has prompted the Ministry of Health to expand and enhance treatments for NCDs, as well as launch campaigns to create awareness among the public about the importance of pursuing healthy lifestyles.

Speaking recently at the inauguration of a new cardiac catheterization ward in Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital, the Head of Cardiology Division Dr. Mohammad Zubaid, disclosed that in Kuwait the average age of heart stroke patients was 48, which was10 years younger than in the United States and Europe. He pointed out that the hospital annually received around 850 patients suffering from heart strokes.

According to a new study by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the United States, average lifespan in Kuwait would increase in the next 25 years, provided health authorities address key health drivers, including by efficiently managing and preventing NCDs.

Conditional on being able to bring about health-span improvements, lifespan in Kuwait is projected to increase from the 79.4 years in 2016 to 81.4 years by 2040, ranking the country 41st globally in terms of longevity.

Among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Kuwait’s ranking is expected to be second only to that of Qatar, which is anticipated to have an average lifespan of 82.3 years by 2040, an increase of 2.4 years from the 79.9 years it enjoyed in 2016. On the global level, the latest WHO report shows that of the four major illnesses, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of all NCD deaths in 2016, cardiovascular diseases took a toll of 18 million lives (44%).

This was followed by cancers that claimed 9 million lives (22%), chronic respiratory diseases with 3.8 million deaths (9%), and diabetes which took 1.6 million lives (4%). Also, over 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 years lost their lives prematurely due to NCDs. In addition, 78 percent of all NCD deaths and 85 percent of premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

In addition, suicides, which were the second leading cause of death among young adults, claimed over 800,000 deaths in 2016. Almost 10 million premature deaths from NCDs can be avoided by 2025 if governments decide, to immediately implement the WHO ‘best buys’ for NCDs that were endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2017. Implementing these best buys will prevent over 17 million strokes and heart attacks by 2030 in the poorest countries, and generate more than US$350 billion in economic growth in low and lower-middle-income countries between now and 2030.

It is estimated that every US$1 invested in the proven interventions for NCDs will yield a return of at least US$7 by 2030. According to the WHO, six risk factors for NCDs that people should immediately address are reducing tobacco use, reducing harmful use of alcohol, reducing unhealthy diet, reducing physical inactivity, managing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and managing cancer.

To reduce or manage the major risk factors for NCDs, the WHO recommends that governments and health authorities should, among others, increase excise taxes and prices of tobacco and alcohol products; enact and enforce comprehensive bans on advertising promotion and sponsorship of tobacco and alcohol products; enact and enforce restrictions on the physical availability of retailed alcohol, as well as cigarettes and tobacco products, and implement effective mass media campaigns to create awareness about the harms of smoking and tobacco use, and second-hand smoke.

World leaders gathered at the Third United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, which was held at the UN Headquarters in New York on 27 September agreed to a set of landmark steps to combat NCDS. Speaking on the occasion the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the leaders had agreed to take personal responsibility for their countries’ effort to prevent and treat NCDs.

They had also agreed to introduce robust laws and fiscal measures to protect people from tobacco, unhealthy foods, and other harmful products, as well as expressed commitment to implement a series of WHO-recommended policies to prevent and control NCDs. Writing the preface to the WHO country profiles on NCD, the Assistant Director-General of WHO, Dr. Svetlana Akselrod wrote: The human toll of NCDs is unacceptable.

These diseases carry a huge cost that extends beyond health to trap people in poverty, deny them a life of dignity, undermine workforce productivity, and threaten economic prosperity. NCDs are also becoming an issue by creating enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power.

The WHO profile report also warned that the rate of progress made so far is unlikely to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of a one-third reduction in premature deaths from NCDs by 2030. The report found that while some progress had been made, there still existed significant gaps in the delivering of health services and in access to medicines and technologies to manage NCDs in many parts of the world.

- Staff Report

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