Part Two. The urgent need for action
Chapter One. Chronic diseases: causes and health impact
Confusion and long-held misunderstandings about the nature of chronic diseases, their prevalence, the populations at risk, and the risk factors themselves are barriers to progress and prevention. What might have been true - or thought to be true - 30, 20 or even 10 years ago is no longer the case.
The health of the world is generally improving, with fewer people dying from infectious diseases and therefore in many cases living long enough to develop chronic diseases. Increases in the causes of chronic diseases, including unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use are leading to people developing chronic diseases at younger ages in the increasingly urban environments of low and middle income countries. Disturbing evidence of this impact in many of these countries is steadily growing. They are ill equipped to handle the demands for care and treatment that chronic diseases place on their health systems and so people die at younger ages than in high income countries.
Individuals and their families in all countries struggle to cope with the impact of chronic diseases, and it is the poorest who are the most vulnerable. The links between chronic diseases and poverty are examined in the next chapter.