What are NCDs?
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are chronic, long-term diseases that require on-going management and treatment. The main types of NCDs are: cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease (WHO, 2015). In addition, mental and neurological disorders such as depression and dementia have also been recognised as NCDs (NCD Alliance, 2016). These conditions rarely occur in isolation, and many people are affected by more than one condition at the same time.
The rise in prevalence of NCDs has been driven primarily by four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets. Underlying these risk factors are forces that include ageing, rapid unplanned urbanization, and the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles (WHO, 2015). 94% of all adults in Myanmar live with at least one NCD risk factor.
NCDs can be avoided in many cases through basic changes in diet and lifestyle. Where prevention is not possible, NCDs can often be treated or managed with positive results, greatly improving the quality of life of the person affected and of their family.
The good news is that NCDs are manageable and their incidence can be greatly reduced through fiscal measures, awareness raising and behaviour change to improve diets, increase exercise and reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption. The key to successful prevention and management is a comprehensive public health approach for the whole population – from infancy and childhood to adolescence and adulthood, and through to old age.