27 June 2007

Africa: Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease Rise to Western Levels

Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are rising in poor countries, says the World Bank in a new report.

The report, "Public Policy and the Challenge of Chronic Non-communicable Diseases", calls for health ministers and funders in poor countries to focus on the "real cost" of treating diseases once only found in large numbers in western countries.

Non-communicable diseases tend to affect youth, a group "at the peak of economic productivity," according to the report. Treating young patients is costly because it may have to continue through the course of their lives.

Joy Phumaphi, vice president of the bank's Human Development Network and a former health minister in Botswana, warned in a statement that the increase in diseases like cancer and heart disease will place a strain not only on national health budgets, but also on families and caregivers.

"When a family member falls sick with a chronic illness, families in developing countries often tap into their meager savings, or sell what they own to cover the costs of care and lost wages," she said.

The report recommends governments in poor countries to focus on preventative care by promoting regular health care and healthy living. Governments should also budget for the rise in non-communicable diseases, it says.

Read the report


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