Stroke, diabetes and heart diseases likely to kill more people – WHO

Heart disease more than any other health condition will be the common cause of death in 2021 and beyond, if the trend continues and nothing is done.

The world’s biggest killer is ischaemic heart disease, responsible for 16 per cent of the world’s total deaths, rising by more than two million in 2000 to 8.9 million deaths in 2019.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) statement made available to said, “Stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the 2nd and 3rd leading causes of death, responsible for approximately 11 per cent and 6 per cent of total deaths respectively.”

Diabetes has entered the top 10 causes of death, following a significant percentage increase. Similarly, kidney diseases have risen from the world’s 13th leading cause of death to the 10th with mortality increasing from 813 000 in 2000 to 1.3 million in 2019.

The global body has noted that deaths from noncommunicable diseases are on the rise and trachea, bronchus and lung cancers deaths have risen and are now ranked sixth among leading causes of death.

The statement noted that at a global level, seven of the 10 leading causes of deaths in 2019 were noncommunicable diseases.  Adding that the top global causes of death, in order of total number of lives lost, are associated with three broad areas: cardiovascular (ischaemic heart disease, stroke), respiratory (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections) and neonatal conditions – which include birth asphyxia and birth trauma, neonatal sepsis and infections, and preterm birth complications.

Other diseases, which were among the top 10 causes of death in 2000, are no longer on the list. HIV and AIDS is one of them. Deaths from HIV and AIDS have fallen by 51 per cent during the last 20 years, moving from the world’s 8th leading cause of death in 2000 to the 19th in 2019.

Income status and death

The World Bank classifies the world’s economies into four income groups based on gross national income: low, lower-middle, upper-middle and high.

People living in a low-income country are far more likely to die of a communicable disease than a noncommunicable disease.

Despite the global decline, six of the top 10 causes of death in low-income countries are communicable diseases. Malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS all remain in the top 10. However, all three are falling significantly.

Diarrhoeal diseases are more significant as a cause of death in low-income countries. They rank in the top five causes of death for this income category. Nonetheless, diarrhoeal diseases are decreasing in low-income countries, representing the second biggest decrease in fatalities among the top 10.

Lower-middle-income countries have the most disparate top 10 causes of death: five noncommunicable, four communicable, and one injury.

The WHO said diabetes is a rising cause of death in this income group and it has moved from the 15th to nineth leading cause of death and the number of deaths from this disease has nearly doubled since 2000.

According to the WHO, it is important to know why people die to improve how people live. Adding that measuring how many people die each year helps to assess the effectiveness of “our health systems and direct resources to where they are needed most. For example, mortality data can help focus activities and resource allocation among sectors such as transportation, food and agriculture, and the environment as well as health.”

It noted that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance for countries to invest in civil registration and vital statistics systems to allow daily counting of deaths, and direct prevention and treatment efforts.

“It has also revealed inherent fragmentation in data collection systems in most low-income countries, where policy-makers still do not know with confidence how many people die and of what causes.”

The WHO has stated that the availability of services to prevent, diagnose and treat disease is key to reducing death and disability. It noted that the new estimates clearly indicate where additional investments in services are most urgently needed.

By Eunice Menka

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