Non-Communicable Diseases: Popular Myths and key preventative interventions

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for more than 60% of all deaths.

Myth: NCDs affect high-income (developed) countries only/ low/ middle-income countries do not need to worry about NCDs.

Fact: NCDs affect all countries. High-income countries used to account for a disproportionately large number of cases and deaths due to NCDs in the past. Currently, nearly 80% of NCD deaths occur in low and middle income countries (except Africa).

*Even in Africa, they are projected to be the leading cause of death by 2030.

Myth: NCDs cannot be prevented- they run in families.

Fact: NCDs can be prevented through a variety of measures at the community/ population and individual levels.

Myth: Preventing NCDs is complicated and expensive.

Fact: Many NCDs can be prevented by following simple, inexpensive measures.

NCD Prevention: The BIG FOUR (Controlling these risk factors will substantially reduce the risk of developing NCDs regardless of location)


Tobacco: Accounts for 10% of all deaths. The highest incidence of smoking among men is in lower-middle income countries.

Insufficient Physical Activity: Those who are insufficiently physically active have 20-30% higher risk of death (from any cause)

Harmful use of alcohol: Accounts for 3.8% of all deaths.

Unhealthy diet: Adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, stomach and colon cancers. High salt intake (5 grams per person per day or more) increases the risk for developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease. High consumption of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids is linked to heart disease.

Link to WHO document on NCDs (summary)

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