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Expanding priorities — confronting chronic disease in countries with low income

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.