World Bank warns danger of chronic illnesses in poor countries

By Xinhua

Washington : A new World Bank report released on Wednesday warned that chronic illnesses, namely cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease will be the leading cause of death in developing countries by 2015.

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The report — Public Policy and the Challenge of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases — thus called for actions to slow down the trend, and to prepare for subsequent heavy demand on health care budgets.

Rising life expectancy for all age groups, lower fertility rates, better control of infectious diseases, and changing lifestyles with more smoking, bad diets and lack of exercise, mean that poor countries face a future where non-communicable diseases (NCDs) become a major problem, according to the report.

The report said that countries need to promote healthy aging and avoid premature deaths. They will also need to adapt their health systems to cope with the growing numbers of elderly people who will require long-term care and request expensive treatment.

The report said that in Indonesia, for example, private healthcare spending is projected to more than double by 2020, compared to 2005, as its elderly population grows in size, and needs treatment for chronic diseases.

NCDs are not restricted to older people and represent an important cause of illness and death among people of working age. Moreover, about three-quarters of the NCD disability burden in low-and middle-income countries occurs among those between the ages of15 and 69, at the peak of economic productivity.

"Many studies tend to underestimate the real cost of non-communicable diseases to individual people and their families, which can cause a household to slip below the poverty line," said Joy Phumaphi, Vice President of the World Bank's Human Development Network, and a former Minister of Health in Botswana from 1999-2003.