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Confronting the scourge of non-communicable diseases

Neelam Rahim |

2-minute read
10 March 2024 | 10:53 CAT

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) —primarily heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes —are now the leading cause of death globally

Deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are surging worldwide. In South Africa, deaths from NCDs increased by almost 60 percent from 1997 to 2018. Urgent action is needed. We know that we can’t solve the problem of NCDs with isolated, small and convenient interventions in individual lifestyles. The Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) calls for bold interventions with a systemic overview of obesity.

Research shows that an estimated 1 in 8 South African children are overweight, which is double the global average. Experts warn that children experiencing overweight and obesity in early childhood run the risk of experiencing obesity as adults. Obesity is associated with other dangerous diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

“One of the most urgent interventions needed to curtail the explosion of NCDs in South Africa is the regulation of the food environment. The government needs to strongly regulate the food environment in favour of consumers to curb the consumption of unhealthy food, which is often heavily marketed to South Africa’s poor,” HEALA says.

The rapidly growing burden of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries is accelerated by the negative effects of globalization, rapid unplanned urbanization and increasingly sedentary lives.

People in developing countries are increasingly eating foods with higher levels of carbohydrates and sugars and are targeted by marketing for tobacco, alcohol and junk food.

The costs to health-care systems from NCDs are high and projected to increase. Significant costs to individuals, families, businesses, governments and health systems add to major economic impacts. Heart disease, stroke and diabetes cause billions of dollars in losses of national income each year in the world’s most populous nations. Economic analysis suggests that each 10/ rise in NCDs is associated with 0.5/ lower annual economic growth rates.

Listen to the full interview on The Daily Round Up with Moulana Junaid Kharsany and Angelika Grimbeek, Policy and Research Manager at the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA.


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