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Disease burden - Non-communicable diseases and conditions

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Distribution of causes of neuropsychiatric burden of diseases (percentage of total DALYs) in the African Region, 2004
Distribution of causes of intentional and non-intentional injuries (percentage of total DALYs) in the African Region, 2004

The increasing burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the WHO African Region threatens already over-stretched health services. Conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus, mental health problems, chronic respiratory disease, violence, injuries and disabilities, and genetic disorders absorb substantial amounts of human and financial resources. Approximately 62% of older adults in Africa (those over 45 years old) die from NCDs[1]. In Africa in 1990, NCDs accounted for 28% of morbidities and 35% of mortalities. These figures are projected to rise to 60% and 65% respectively by 2020, adding to the already high burden of communicable diseases[2]. This double burden necessitates concomitant approaches and simultaneous interventions.

The economic impact of NCDs goes beyond the costs to health services. Indirect costs such as lost productivity can match or exceed the direct costs. In addition, a significant proportion of the total cost of care falls on patients and their families. People now die from chronic diseases at dramatically younger ages; but because NCDs are not always understood as development issues, and underestimated as diseases with profound economic effects, many African governments take insufficient interest in their prevention and control.

  1. World Health Organization. The world health report 2004. Changing history: WHO, 2004
  2. M.L.Brown et al. 2006. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, 2d ed., ed. D.T. Jamison, J.G. Breman, A.R. Measham, G. Alleyne, M. Claeson, D.B. Evans, P. Jha, A. Mills, and P. Musgrove. 577. New York: Oxford University Press