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Killing Non-Communicable Diseases

Non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory ailments have become far and away the world’s leading cause of death, particularly among the poor. Maybe that's because just 1% of global health financing goes toward tackling them.

SEATTLE – Over the last 25 years, thanks partly to a coordinated global effort to fight infectious diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, and polio, childhood mortality rates have been reduced by 50%, and average life expectancy has increased by more than six years. Moreover, the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has been halved. These are major achievements, but they have brought a new set of challenges that must urgently be addressed.

As lives have gotten longer and lifestyles have changed, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory ailments have taken hold, becoming far and away the world’s leading causes of death. While about 3.2 million people died from malaria, TB, or HIV/AIDS in 2014, more than 38 million died from NCDs. And the death toll continues to rise.

Consider diabetes, one of the fastest-growing NCDs. According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, diabetes killed 1.5 million people in 2012, about the same number as TB. But while TB deaths have declined by half since 1990, the impact of diabetes is rising fast. In 1980, 100 million people were living with diabetes, a rate of about one person in 20; today, more than 400 million, or one in 12, have the disease.

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