Global response to non-communicable disease

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 30 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3823
  1. UnitedHealth, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Centers of Excellence
  1. Correspondence to: R Smith, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London, UK richardswsmith{at}
  • Accepted 15 June 2011

The forthcoming UN meeting on non-communicable diseases is an important opportunity for promoting global action on conditions that have been neglected. A network of researchers from low and middle income countries describes what is needed

Despite causing 63% of global deaths, with 80% occurring in the developing world,1 non-communicable diseases did not feature in the millennium development goals and account for less than 3% of global health aid.2 The huge global burden from non-communicable diseases is expected to increase substantially over the next few years, and urgent action is needed (box 1).1 3 In September the United Nations will hold a high level summit on non-communicable diseases. The only previous UN meeting on health, in 2001, led to the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which has saved millions of lives. We, a group of researchers mostly from low and middle income countries, describe how the UN meeting provides an opportunity to mount a major global response to non-communicable diseases, how its success can be made more likely, and what outcomes we would like to see.

Box 1: Burden of non-communicable disease13

  • 36 million deaths a year, 63% of global deaths

  • 80% of deaths from cardiovascular and diabetes and almost 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease occur in low and middle income countries

  • 29% of deaths from non-communicable diseases in low and middle income countries occur in people under 60 compared with 13% in high income countries

  • Deaths are projected to increase by 15% between 2010 and 2020 with increases of 20% in Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia

  • Almost 6 million people a year die from tobacco use, 3.2 million from physical inactivity, 2.3 million from the harmful use of alcohol, 7.8 million from raised blood pressure, and 2.8 million from being overweight or obese

  • The …

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