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Non-communicable diseases leading causes of death in Asia-Pacific region: ADB

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Monday that over the past decade the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “have grown exponentially and are now the leading causes of death in most countries in the Asia-Pacific region with 71 percent of all deaths globally due to NCDs.”

Marked by their chronic, long-term nature, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono said NCDs are placing increasing strains on health systems of the developing member countries.

“They are posing financial risks to governments. They are hampering economic growth and putting at risk the economic gains, and reduced poverty and inequality that Asia and Pacific have admiringly achieved,” Susantono said at the opening of a three-day conference to discuss ways to combat the increasing spread of NCDs in developing countries in the Asia and Pacific region.

Susantono said the direct medical costs of one NCD alone, diabetes, was estimated in 2015 at US$6.5 billion in India, and $US716 million for the Philippines. “They will potentially severely affect economic growth and drive people into poverty because of lost jobs and the cost of chronic treatment,” he added.

With too many uncoordinated and poorly implemented approaches that do not appropriately address these diseases and conditions, Susantono said the risk of NCDs overwhelming health systems is high.

“NCDs is a threat to economic growth and universal health coverage and we need to take immediate and strong actions against them,” Susantono said.

He said the Asia-Pacific region has seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity and other NCDs, with a huge year on year increases of more than 10 percent across many countries.

Studies estimate that 62 percent of all overweight people reside in a developing country, with Asia and the Pacific as the home to the largest absolute number of overweight and obese people at about 1 billion people. "This rate is about two out of five adults in Asia,” he added.

Indeed, the ADB said NCDs are the leading causes of death and disability in the world, with low and middle-income countries the hardest hit.

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