UK likely to fall short of UN target for reducing premature deaths from chronic disease

A patient receives treatment at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, as a study finds people in the UK, US and China have a higher risk of dying early from conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke than those in Italy, France, South Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

People in the UK have a higher risk of dying early from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke than in Italy, France, South Korea and Australia, a major study has found.

The research revealed that a 30-year-old woman in the UK has a 9% chance of dying from four key non-communicable disease (NCDs) – cancer, cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke), chronic respiratory disease and diabetes – before her 70th birthday, compared to a 7.6% chance for a woman living in Sweden and 6% for a woman in Japan.

Meanwhile a 30-year-old man living in the UK has a 13% chance of dying from an NCD before age 70, compared to 11% for a man living in Switzerland.

The study, led by Imperial College London, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and NCD Alliance, is described as the most detailed global analysis of carried out into deaths from NCDs.

It also found the majority of the world’s nations – including the UK, US and China – look likely to fall short of the UN target for reducing the number of premature deaths from such diseases.

Non-communicable diseases kill nearly 41 million people a year, making up seven out of 10 deaths globally, with 17 million of these deaths classed as premature (before the age of 70).

In 2015, the UN set the goal of a one-third reduction in premature deaths (between the ages of 30 and 70 years) from cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes by the year 2030.

The research is published in the Lancet ahead of a key UN meeting on NCDs next week.

The group behind the research, who are collectively known as NCD Countdown 2030, warn that their findings suggest the UN target will be missed in all but 35 nations for women and 30 nations for men.

They said men and women in most countries around the world have a higher risk of dying prematurely from NCDs than from infectious diseases such as malaria or HIV.

Their analysis on deaths in more than 180 nations found the lowest risks of dying early from NCDs were seen in high-income countries – especially South Korea, Japan, Switzerland and Australia.

But other high-income countries are lagging behind the leaders, including the UK (which ranks 17th for men, 27th for women) and the US (53rd for men, 44th for women).

Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, who led the study, said: “Non-communicable diseases are the main cause of premature death for most countries.

“Poverty, uncontrolled marketing of alcohol and tobacco by multinational industries, and weak healthcare systems are making chronic diseases a larger danger to human health than traditional foes such as bacteria and viruses.

“Treatment of hypertension and controlling tobacco and alcohol use alone can prevent millions of deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and other NCDs.

“But there is also a need for affordable high-quality care to diagnose and treat chronic diseases as early as possible.”

Katie Dain, chief executive of the NCD Alliance, said: “We are sleepwalking into a sick future because of severely inadequate progress on non-communicable diseases.

“Post the UN High Level Meeting, NCD Countdown 2030 will assist in holding governments and donors accountable and help to ensure that the opportunity before us next week to renew, reinforce, and enhance commitments to reducing the burden of NCDs, translates the rhetoric into reality.

“Even those governments who appear to be on track cannot be complacent – they must remain vigilant and respond with effective policies to emerging threats to health of the next generation, including child obesity, air pollution and the ever evolving tactics of the tobacco and alcohol industries.”