Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – are the biggest cause of death worldwide. More than 36 million die annually from NCDs (63% of global deaths), including 14 million people who die too young before the age of 70. More than 90% of these premature deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries, and could have largely been prevented. Most premature deaths are linked to common risk factors, namely tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.
To strengthen national efforts to address the burden of NCDs, the 66th World Health Assembly endorsed the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020. The global action plan offers a paradigm shift by providing a road map and a menu of policy options for Member States, WHO, other UN organizations and intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and the private sector which, when implemented collectively between 2013 and 2020, will attain 9 voluntary global targets, including that of a 25% relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025.
Earlier this year the Lancet published an article by Pearce et al titled “The road to 25×25: how can the five-target strategy reach its goal?” More than anywhere, this issue is crucial for low-income and middle-income countries where in the recent Global Burden of Disease study, in terms of broadcause non-communicable disease groups, mental and behavioural disorders and musculoskeletal disease rank in the top four groups. Hoy et al responded with a fundamental response that highlights the importance of musculoskeletal health for reducing NCDs. “In the case of musculoskeletal diseases, of all 291 conditions, three of the top ten disorders in developing countries, in terms of both burden and disability, were musculoskeletal disorders. Good musculoskeletal health and mobility is fundamental for the prevention of other non-communicable diseases and essential for independent and productive lives at all ages. Musculoskeletal problems are common comorbidities with other non-communicable diseases, and this combination further reduces function, and impedes efforts to prevent further damage (eg, efforts such as increased physical activity).”