WHO updates fact sheet on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) (10 April 2017)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

Background Information:

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.

The main types of NCDs are

  • cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke),
  • cancers,
  • chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and
  • diabetes.

Key Messages:

People of all age groups, regions and countries are affected by NCDs.

17 million of all deaths attributed to NCDs occur before the age of 70. 87% of these “premature” deaths are estimated to occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.7 million people annually, followed by cancers (8.8 million), respiratory diseases (3.9million), and diabetes (1.6 million).

These 4 groups of diseases account for 81% of all NCD deaths.

Modifiable behaviours, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol, all increase the risk of NCDs.

  • Tobacco accounts for 7.2 million deaths every year (including from the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke), and is projected to increase markedly over the coming years.
  • 4.1 million annual deaths have been attributed to excess salt/sodium intake.
  • More than half of the 3.3 million annual deaths attributable to alcohol use are from NCDs, including cancer.
  • 1.6 million deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity.

Metabolic risk factors contribute to four key metabolic changes that increase the risk of NCDs:

  • raised blood pressure
  • overweight/obesity
  • hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) and
  • hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).

In terms of attributable deaths, the leading metabolic risk factor globally is elevated blood pressure (to which 19% of global deaths are attributed), followed by overweight and obesity and raised blood glucose.

In low-resource settings, health-care costs for NCDs quickly drain household resources. The exorbitant costs of NCDs, including often lengthy and expensive treatment and loss of breadwinners, force millions of people into poverty annually and stifle development.

To lessen the impact of NCDs on individuals and society, a comprehensive approach is needed requiring all sectors, including

  • health,
  • finance,
  • transport,
  • education,
  • agriculture,
  • planning and others,

to collaborate to reduce the risks associated with NCDs, and promote interventions to prevent and control them.

Investing in better management of NCDs is critical. Management of NCDs includes

  • detecting, screening and treating these diseases, and
  • providing access to palliative care for people in need.

High impact essential NCD interventions can be delivered through a primary health care approach to strengthen early detection and timely treatment.

NCD management interventions are essential for achieving the global target of a 25% relative reduction in the risk of premature mortality from NCDs by 2025, and the SDG target of a one-third reduction in premature deaths from NCDs by 2030.

Countries with inadequate health insurance coverage are unlikely to provide universal access to essential NCD interventions. 

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:


Link to Infographic on NCDs [PDF]:


Link to Global Action Plan for prevention and control of NCDs (English) [PDF]:


Link to Data on NCDs:



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