The National Institutes of Health, America's federally-funded medical research organization, is spearheading efforts to establish chronic disease centers in 11 developing countries, where illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease have become bigger killers than infectious disease.
Chronic, lifestyle-related diseases caused by excessive fast-food
consumption and lack of exercise now account for an estimated 60 percent of
deaths in developing countries. That is a public health toll greater than that
of parasitic diseases, which are also a leading cause of illness and death in
the poorest countries.
If nothing is done to stop the trend, experts say that by 2015, 41 million people around the world will succumb each year to conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, with half of the victims younger than 70 years of age.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is helping to establish chronic disease centers in 11 countries, including India, China, Guatemala, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and at the U.S.-Mexico border. The centers' mission will be to educate people about chronic illnesses and to help treat patients.
Richard Smith, Director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative in London, which is partnering with the U.S. health institute, says there has been a steady increase in chronic illnesses in developing countries as people move to cities and adopt Western lifestyles.
Smith says the World Health Organization has attempted to coordinate a response to the problems of chronic illnesses. But, he says, most of the money earmarked by donor countries for chronic disease programs has gone toward fighting infectious disease.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health is providing $26 million in start-up money for the five year program.
Translated by Buasawan Simmala