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Noncommunicable Diseases May Increase COVID-19 Severity: WHO

Noncommunicable diseases kill more than 40 million people a year worldwide

New studies by the World Health Organization and the United Nations show people suffering from noncommunicable diseases are more susceptible to becoming severely ill and dying from COVID-19.

Noncommunicable diseases kill more than 40 million people a year worldwide. The World Health Organization says seven out of 10 deaths globally are caused by cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, respiratory and other NCDs.

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Of those, the data show, 17 million people die prematurely, the great majority between the ages of 30 and 70.  Most of the deaths occur in low-income countries.

Nick Banatvala, the head of a U.N. task force on noncommunicable diseases, said Friday that NCDs and their risk factors are increasing susceptibility to COVID-19 infection and the likelihood of worse outcomes, including in young people.  He said research from academics in several countries demonstrates the scale of the problem.

WHO: Noncommunicable Diseases Increase Risk of Death From COVID-19
A 2018 WHO study showed that investing in cost-effective preventive health measures could save both money and lives. Unsplash

Obesity, smoking, diabetes

“In a study in France, the odds of developing severe COVID-19 were seven times higher in patients with obesity,” he said. “Smokers are 1½ times more likely to have severe complications from COVID-19 and had higher mortality rates. … People with diabetes are between two and four times more likely to have severe symptoms or die from COVID-19.”

Banatvala said other studies have shown similar outcomes for people with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases, cancer and so on.

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“Overall, almost one-quarter of the global population is estimated to have an underlying condition that increases their vulnerability to COVID-19, and most of these conditions are NCDs. … Let me remind you, 70 percent of deaths globally are from NCDs, and yet NCDs receive less than 2 percent of development assistance for health,” he said.

Banatvala called this shortsighted. He said a 2018 WHO study showed that investing in cost-effective preventive health measures could save both money and lives.

He said the study found that for every dollar invested in preventive measures, there would be a return of $7 by 2030. He also said that using these initiatives over the next decade could result in saving 8.2 million lives. (VOA)

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