Displaying 1-20 of 22 key documents
Source: WHO | April 2011
This report examines the threat posed by non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries, which carry nearly 80 per cent of the world's burden of cardiovascular disease; diabetes; cancer; obesity; and chronic respiratory disease. It includes tables and maps of global, regional and country-specific trends including estimated mortality rates. The data are also used to predict future trends and assess factors contributing to non-communicable disease.
Drawing on what developed countries have learned about these diseases, the report outlines options for tackling them, such as early detection and treatment. To encourage immediate action, it puts forward a series of highly cost-effective solutions that are affordable even where resources are limited. It also emphasises the need for strong health-care systems, improved surveillance and monitoring, and nongovernmental and civil society participation in efforts to reduce the burden of non-communicable disease.
Source: Organogenesis | July 2008
This review article explores the evidence that inappropriate levels of certain nutrients before or just after birth can predispose some individuals to obesity and examines how this could be applied to a clinical setting.
The brain regulates appetite and food preferences and is highly sensitive to its nutritional environment in early life.
Newborn rats whose mothers were fed a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet during pregnancy and lactation were more likely to choose high-fat food after weaning. These food preferences may be set during lactation. Tests on another group of rats revealed that newborns exposed to junk food such as doughnuts and crisps in the womb and during lactation were more likely to want that type of food. Newborns whose mothers switched from a junk-food to a healthier diet during lactation did not have this preference.
The authors suggest that hormones such as leptin — long thought to be a crucial factor in appetite regulation — are key in regulating the development of appetite in later life.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | August 2006
This review examines the global 'nutrition transition', the ongoing shift in dietary patterns that results from socioeconomic and demographic change.
The author finds that while dietary changes are fairly well documented, other aspects such as how global media or activity-levels influence these changes are poorly recognised. For example, how the drop in manual labour that results as a society becomes more prosperous might affect activity levels.
The author takes an evolutionary view of the nutrition transition, acknowledging that populations have repeatedly striven to make food more plentiful and better tasting (which has often translated to more processed or higher calorie contents) and to expend as little physical energy in the process.
He argues that rapidly-developing countries must consider how to ensure that their richer, well-fed populations do not succumb to degenerative or chronic diseases. There is a strong economic incentive: sick populations drain the economy.
Source: Springer | 2008
The author list for this collection of chapters, with names like Cesar Victora and Carine Ronsman, reads like a 'Who's Who' in nutrition and health for the developing world. The chapter topics are wide-ranging and include subjects such as the economics of nutrition programmes, the extent to which scientific data influences nutrition policies, and the challenge of providing food aid during humanitarian emergencies.
Each chapter is organised as a scientific paper. Most usefully perhaps, the authors of each chapter include both their conclusions, and a separate list of recommendations for researchers and policymakers.
Source: The Lancet | October 2008
This series of commentaries and research articles — published by The Lancet, the Peking University Health Sciences Centre and the China Medical Board — addresses China's major health challenges, strategies and future. It has been produced by a group of 63 scientists from 10 countries with Chinese scientists making up two-thirds of the authors.
The research papers give scientific evidence on key health issues including the emergence and control of both infectious and chronic non-infectious diseases in China as well as the performance of China's healthcare system.
Authors of the series' commentaries further discuss a range of topical issues affecting China's health system, including the state of biomedical science and technology (see 'Progress in Chinese biomedicine a massive challenge'), medical research ethics, the lessons learnt from China's schistosomiasis control programme and the challenges the country faces in controlling HIV/AIDS.
Source: NEJM | January, 2007
Cardiovascular disease accounts for 30% of deaths worldwide and 10% of all years of healthy life lost to disease, and the figures are nearly as high in developing countries — 27 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. This compares with 10% of lives lost worldwide from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria put together (12% in developing countries). So why have donors not invested as heavily into tackling non-communicable chronic diseases as they have with infectious ones? The authors of this article suggest several reasons: infectious diseases are in some ways easier to solve by a vaccine or drugs so it might seem sensible to use precious funding this way; Western donors may want to see epidemics contained quickly to avoid global spread; pictures of small African children dying of AIDS are more heartrending than a middle-aged man with hypertension, even if that man is supporting a large family; there is a myth that chronic diseases are more costly to prevent than infectious ones. This last issue is one that should be tackled strongly to spread awareness that low-cost methods can have an enormous effect on chronic diseases.
Source: Nature Reviews | January, 2004
Vaccination for infectious diseases is a vital method of prophylaxis, and has transformed modern medicine. By contrast, research into vaccines against chronic diseases has been less successful, in part because of the increased complexity involved.
In this opinion piece, the authors outline the prospects for the development of chronic disease vaccines. These might not need to rely on the traditional method of inducing the body to produce antibodies, but rather on introducing monoclonal antibodies against specific proteins — this has so far worked well against Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
The authors outline key hurdles in developing a successful therapeutic vaccine. Safety and efficacy are two obvious ones, but there is a third that is unique to vaccines for chronic diseases. Because these vaccines would block bodily chemicals — such as cytokines or hormones — it would not be acceptable for a vaccine to induce a life-long block (unlike a malaria vaccine, for example, where a lifelong block would be ideal).
These might be particularly useful in developing countries, say the authors. Because prophylaxis with vaccines is already a familiar concept, there should be no problem with patients' compliance, and judicious partnerships between public and private organisations could mean the vaccines are produced cheaply.
Source: PLoS Medicine | September 2007
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) practically define health efforts in the 21st century, but they virtually ignore non-communicable diseases such as mental health, say these authors. This is despite evidence that mental health disorders are among the most important cause of sickness and disability and even premature mortality. The authors argue that tackling mental health problems will be vital to achieving the MDGs, and three in particular — eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health.
Poverty and hunger are well-recognised risk factors for mental health, but mental health also makes it harder for people to escape the hunger trap. Mothers who are depressed during pregnancy and post natally, are more likely to have underweight babies; not only that, the illness means these mothers are more likely to stop breastfeeding and less likely to ensure their children are properly immunised than mothers without depression.
The authors advocate that strengthening basic health-care systems should be holistic. For example, developing countries need more and better-trained health workers but they should not only know how to deliver babies but also how to counsel new mothers. HIV/AIDS programmes, as another example, should ensure that individuals not only have good access to antiretrovirals but also to treatment for depression if they need it.
Source: PLoS Medicine | June 2007
Schizophrenia is relatively rare — affecting 1% of the world's population — but is arguably one of the most severe mental illnesses. Diagnosing and treating it can be hard enough in developed countries; the challenges are magnified in developing nations with inadequate health systems; few trained staff; and pervasive social stigma. So how best to treat it? In this debate, three psychiatrists offer their different viewpoints.
Vikram Patel, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the shortage of mental health specialists means that the most effective way of spreading the expertise around might be for non-specialist health workers or community representatives to be trained to bear the brunt of providing first-line mental health services. Saeed Farooq, at Pakistan's Lady Reading Hospital, argues that the principles of the WHO's DOTS TB programme, in which patients are given an uninterrupted supply of medication taken under close supervision, could be used to treat schizophrenia. The rationale is that missing medication for schizophrenia, which can be common given the cognitive impairment associated with the illness, has serious consequences and can lead to much higher risks of relapse. R. Thara, director of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation, Chennai, India, advocates tackling stigma by offering proper treatment. In India at least, he says, the mystification of mental illness is intensified by a lack of awareness about schizophrenia and also by "magico-religious" beliefs. Effective treatment that shows the symptoms to be an illness rather than a religious curse is the best antidote to stigma, he says.
Source: World Health Organization
In 2005, the World Health Assembly called on WHO member states to tackle their growing rates of cancer by developing rigorous cancer control programmes. To help guide the process, the WHO developed a series of six modules that provide practical advice for programme managers and policy-makers on how to advocate, plan and implement effective cancer control programmes, particularly in developing countries.
Individual modules focus on planning; prevention; early detection; diagnosis and treatment; palliative care; and policy and advocacy. As of May 2008, all but the one on policy and advocacy have been published.
Source: Nature Reviews Cancer
Worldwide, cancer kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB put together. In developing countries where chronic diseases are now growing alongside infectious diseases, new strategies need to be developed.
This article outlines how to develop an effective cancer strategy in African countries on the basis of discussions at the recent African Cancer Reform convention. A cancer control plan clearly needs to take into account African countries' financial constraints and the authors outline six key essentials that would offer most health gain for money invested. These are: setting up cancer intelligence units to collect data on cancer incidence; controlling tobacco use; early diagnosis and prevention; offering treatment wherever possible; palliative care when treatment is no longer useful; and training and educating future generations of African oncologists.
Developed countries can offer crucial expertise and experience and collaborate on cancer information networks. Educating local communities about a disease that is relatively new but growing quickly will also be essential to stop it spiralling when many cancers are preventable or treatable when detected early enough.
In 2003, the Gates foundation infused new vigour into global health efforts by declaring that the 21st century's "grand challenges" included developing new vaccines and overcoming drug resistance. This new grand challenges initiative, launched by a collaboration of top global chronic disease experts, identifies priorities in tackling diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and explains in detail how research should be directed to meet each challenge (a challenge was defined as a critical barrier that if removed would help solve an important health problem).
To distill the range of opinions and priorities, the coordinators sought input from 155 stakeholders from different countries and disciplines. The initiative requires the participation of agencies like the WHO, individual governments, and non-governmental organisations as well as civil society and business if it is to succeed. The authors point out that the Gates initiative was linked to large funding, whereas this project will rely on multiple funding agencies to coordinate on these priorities.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine | January 2007
Global health experts have watched with increasing alarm as the waistlines of people in developing countries have started to widen with the adoption of a "Western" lifestyle. Obesity is of such concern because of its heightened risks for other diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
In developing countries, the number of people with diabetes is set to rise to 228 million by 2030 from 84 million estimated in 2000. The link between obesity and diabetes is so strong because obesity renders individuals unable to properly process glucose — about 90% of type 2 diabetes is due to being overweight. Obesity and diabetes also raise the risk for cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. Diabetic nephropathy was the most common cause of end-stage renal disease in 9 out of 10 Asian countries, say the authors, which could be deadly for countries unable to cope with the health repercussions.
Source: World Health Organization | May 2008
This report is the WHO's official record of data produced by its technical programmes and regional offices in close consultation with countries and in collaboration with researchers and development agencies. The WHO produces the statistics to provide an evidence base for strategies to improve global public health.
The report clearly shows that the global burden of disease is shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally. The shifting trends indicate that leading infectious diseases — diarrhoea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria — will become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years.
The report documents in detail "the levels of mortality in children and adults, patterns of morbidity and burden of disease, prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, use of health care, availability of health care workers, and health care financing."
Source: WHO/Global Forum for Health Research | 2007
This joint publication between the World Health Organization and the Global Forum for Health Research reveals mental health research capacity in 114 low-income and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The extensive review identified over 10,000 articles, 4,633 mental health researchers and 3,829 other stakeholders. The authors argue that this is "the first systematic attempt to confirm the pressing needs of improving research capacity in mental health".
The publication provides useful details in table and charts, analysed by group of stakeholders and by region, on topics such as: researchers' profiles; priority-setting process; amount and type of research production; services and technical support available to them; courses and trainings offered; funding patterns; and dissemination of research findings. The appendix provides two extensive lists — by country — of policy and practice that resulted from research evidence, as well as research evidence that was never translated into policy and practice.
Nine recommendations indicate how the management of mental health research can be strengthened so that it meets the national needs of the countries as well as contributes to the global fund of knowledge. The authors say their report thus enables evidence-based decision-making in funding and priority setting in the area of mental health research in low-income and middle-income countries.
Source: World Health Organization | 2003 & 2005
These consist of two reports: SuRF1(Surveillance of risk factors related to non-communicable diseases: current status of global data) and SuRF2 (Surveillance of chronic disease risk factors: country-level data and comparable estimates).
These reports are the result of a large WHO project to set up for the first time a global database of the prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases collected from WHO member states. The first report is largely a collection of the country profiles; the second analyses the data to produce comparable estimates for risk factor prevalence in the countries. The WHO designed this as an advocacy tool to highlight where primary prevention and health promotion need to be directed.
The eight risk factors were chosen because they are easily measurable and theoretically can be changed through prevention efforts. They are: tobacco and alcohol use, patterns of physical inactivity, low fruit/vegetable intake, obesity (as measured by BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes (measured by blood glucose).
The second report presents country-level estimates for overweight/obesity and systolic blood pressure. It also shows the attributable mortality and disease burden from all causes of death due to these overweight and high blood pressure for the 11 most populated countries.
(See WHO Global InfoBase Online for electronically searchable data contained in the reports http://www.who.int/infobase/surf2/online.html.)
Source: The Lancet | December 2007
This series of five articles outlines new challenges and unsolved problems since the journal's last series in 2005. The first article ([189kB]) predicts the disease burden and economic losses that developing countries would face from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes. In the 23 countries that the authors incorporated into a model, chronic disease was responsible for 50% of the disease burden in 2005. If no action is taken, they say, about US$84 billion of economic production will be lost from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes alone in these 23 countries between 2006 and 2015. The second article ([105kB]) looks at how to scale-up strategies to fight chronic diseases in developing countries. The authors review evidence to identify which methods are cost-effective and financially feasible, and therefore ready to be scaled-up.
Tobacco control, salt reduction (both of which are detailed in the series' third paper ([177kB])), and a multidrug strategy to treat individuals with high-risk cardiovascular disease (see an in-depth look in paper four ([220kB])) are prime candidates for scaling-up. What effect improving health systems has on the level of chronic diseases should be properly evaluated, say the authors. For some health interventions, such as preventing or controlling diabetes, there is little cost-effectiveness data for low or middle-income countries, but their scientific effectiveness is so compelling that countries should consider how best to incorporate them. The final paper ([92kB]) is a call to action to incorporate existing interventions into healthcare programmes, which in 2005 was costed at US$5.8 billion.
Source: PLoS Medicine | January 2005
1990 saw the first major effort to estimate the main causes of illness and the biggest killer diseases in different countries. The data are important for public-health officials to allocate their resources wisely but also for feeding into estimates to plan for the future. Importantly, these need to be regularly updated to ensure that health programmes are still going in the right direction. This paper updates the 1990 study and offer predictions up to 2030.
The most forceful change in disease trends is in developing countries, with the proportion of people affected by non-communicable diseases set to increase. Proportionally, the number of people with infectious diseases is set to fall, though not when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
Because the authors also rely on predicting socio-economic development trends, they created best-case and worst-case scenarios for economic growth. In the pessimistic scenario, by 2030, the three leading causes of illness will be HIV/AIDS, depression, and ischaemic heart disease; in the optimistic scenario, road-traffic accidents will replace heart disease as the third leading cause.
Source: International Journal for Equity in Health | January 2005
The WHO has provided its own estimates of how non-communicable diseases are set to rise in developing countries. These authors pool data from national registries and international databases to compare data on the differing burden from individual diseases. They outline the risk factors associated with the diseases.
The main three killers are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The paper ranks different types of cancer by how many people in developing countries they kill (lung and breast cancer are the deadliest) and also ranks diabetes prevalence by country (India, followed by China, has the highest prevalence).
To tackle these diseases, say the authors, people need to look closely at the risk factors in their life – eating healthily and exercising can do much to reduce the chances of getting one of these diseases.
Source: PLoS Medicine | May 2005
Cardiovascular diseases are set to rise dramatically in developing countries, partly because of an increase in risk factors for the diseases, which include diet, physical activity, smoking. The authors looked at cardiovascular disease risks such as being overweight or obese, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol, and related them to national income, food purchase constraints, and urbanisation. Body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol increased as national income increased, then flattened, and eventually declined. BMI also rose with increasing urbanisation.
The authors suggest that cardiovascular disease risks will increasingly be concentrated in low-income and middle-income countries. Thus, preventing obesity should be considered a priority in these countries, along with measures to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and tobacco use.