Lancet: WHO says heart disease costs $84B in 23 low-, middle-income countries

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has published the first in a series of five papers about the burden and costs of chronic diseases in low-income and middle-income countries, including heart disease and diabetes, in the Dec. 8 issue of The Lancet.

The paper estimated that the disease burden and loss of economic output associated with chronic diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, in 23 selected countries which account for around 80 percent of the total burden of chronic disease mortality in developing countries.

In the 23 selected low-income and middle-income countries, chronic diseases were responsible for 50 percent of the total disease burden in 2005. For 15 of the selected countries where death registration data are available, the estimated age-standardized death rates for chronic diseases in 2005 were 54 percent higher for men and 86 percent higher for women than those for men and women in high-income countries.

The WHO study concludes that if nothing is done to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, an estimated $84 billion U.S. of economic production will be lost from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes alone in these 23 countries between 2006 and 2015.

The achievement of a global goal for chronic disease prevention and control—an additional 2 percent yearly reduction in chronic disease death rates over the next 10 years—would avert 24 million deaths in these countries, and save an estimated $8 billion, which is almost 10 percent of the projected loss in national income in the next 10 years.

Globally, the researchers estimated that roughly 58 million people died in 2005, and that 60 percent of the deaths were caused by chronic diseases, principally, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes at 32 percent. Eighty percent of the worldwide deaths from chronic diseases occurred in low-income and middle-income countries, and 80 percent of those deaths occurred in the 23 selected countries.

In 2006, the researchers estimated losses because of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes (reported in 2005) ranged from $20 to 30 million in Ethiopia and Vietnam, to almost $1 billion in larger countries such as China and India.

The researchers concluded that population growth and ageing will drive a substantial increase in the numbers of deaths from chronic disease globally, and particularly in low-income and middle-income countries, where they project an 18 percent increase between 2006 and 2015. They found that the deaths occur at younger ages than chronic disease deaths in high-income countries.

The WHO report said that two major factors account for the grim forecasts on the economic effect of chronic diseases: the lost labor units because of deaths from chronic disease and the costs of treating chronic disease, which continue to increase annually as noted in many wealthy countries such as the USA and Japan.