Our Commonwealth’s silent epidemic

Dr Sania Nishtar
Dr Sania Nishtar
Co-Chair, WHO High-Level Commission on NCDs,and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan

“The slow but fateful onslaught of many NCDs puts huge pressure on already fragile health systems.”

When asked to think about the biggest threats to global health, most people conjure images of diseases like influenza, Ebola and measles. Viruses that spread like wildfire with visceral symptoms capture the human imagination and media attention, yet a global epidemic responsible for more than ten million premature deaths across the Commonwealth every year is largely ignored.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are now the Commonwealth’s top killers. Cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease make up the bulk of NCD deaths. The slow but fateful onslaught of many NCDs means that fatalities often come after long hospitalisations and costly treatment, which puts huge pressure on already fragile health systems. Mental illness increases the risk of these chronic diseases, and vice versa, so developing a comprehensive strategy means effectively tackling both...

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