How Tackling the World’s Deadliest Diseases Can Boost a Healthy Workforce and Economic Growth

It happened on a Friday afternoon. Eti had a clogged artery. It spiraled from there to a heart attack. He lost 80 percent of his heart’s functionality. It was a scary moment for him and his wife who was besides him as it happened, thinking he was about to die.

But he didn’t and this was a wake-up call. After his heart attack, Eti had to make major lifestyle changes to retain his health.

“The first thing I did was quitting smoking,” said Eti from Tonga. “I regained 10-15 percent functionality of my heart over the years and that was mainly due to changing my eating habits and becoming a little bit more physically active.”

The Pacific Islands has one of the world’s highest rates of heart disease and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Tonga alone has one of the highest mortality rates of NCDs in the world, accounting for approximately 80 percent of deaths and one of the highest obesity rates in the world (>80 percent among women).

Despite increases in life expectancy, the rise in chronic and non-communicable diseases have become a global threat. Every year across the globe, 15 million people die before age 70 from these diseases which include cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity.   

Chronic and non-communicable diseases have become a growing concern in all countries irrespective of income level.

“One of the most effective ways to address non-communicable diseases is by ramping up investments in affordable, quality primary health care”, says Dr. Muhammad Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank. “This makes sense both from a health and an economic perspective. Putting more resources on the frontlines to detect and treat conditions early, before they become more serious, saves lives, improves health outcomes, reduces health care costs and strengthens outbreak preparedness.”

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