World health report

Executive summary

Health of adults and the elderly

WHO promotes community-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases as the strategy to reduce risk factors and morbidity and increase life expectancy. In 1995 the Organization continued to coordinate four major cardiovascular disease research projects and supported epidemiological surveys (for instance, on diabetes) in several countries. It also supported the development of national programmes for the control of major hereditary diseases and congenital malformations, and monitored international human genome research.

WHO's INTERHEALTH project has revealed unfavourable nutrition trends globally: in most countries the availability of dietary fat is increasing, whereas the availability of vegetable protein and total carbohydrates, particularly starch, is decreasing. WHO encourages countries to reduce malnutrition and promote good nutrition, and provides normative guiding information on the prevention, management and monitoring of malnutrition. Forty-seven Member States have adopted education programmes aimed at preventing noncommunicable diseases related to lifestyle and diet.

The key to cervical cancer control is health education, early detection and screening. Recognizing that such control is feasible, even in developing countries, WHO has pioneered pragmatic, realistic approaches for its early detection by visual inspection, for affordable radiotherapy and for the relief of pain and symptoms in incurable cases. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which coordinates and conducts epidemiological and laboratory research aimed at developing strategies for cancer prevention, in 1995 published conclusive evidence of the role of human papilloma virus as a cause of cervical cancer. The agency is also assessing potential vaccines against the virus and investigating methods of screening for precancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix.

Recognizing that reproductive health is central to health in general, and thus to socioeconomic development, WHO has set up a new programme on this subject that brings together various related activities and ensures better coordination of research and technical support. The new programme will draw up a comprehensive strategy, define norms and standards, and develop technical tools for addressing reproductive health concerns in countries.

A major issue for WHO in the field of aging and health is healthy aging in women. The third meeting of the Global Commission on Women's Health focused on the health conditions that women face later in life and strategies that will help older women enjoy good health and an improved quality of life.