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Few years ago, short term diseases and rapid infections were the most common cause of death worlwide. But today, we are noticing a reversal of this trend, mostly attributable to lifestyle changes.

Chronic diseases are defined as diseases of long duration and slow progression that can be controlled, but generally not cured.

Out of all the chronic diseases that exist, heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the most commonly encountered

and all together they are responsible for approximately  63% of all deaths in the world. Other examples of chronic diseases include; Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, hypertension, fibromyalgia, mental illness, chronic renal failure and osteoporosis.

Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by microorganisms.

These include bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. The disease can be spread, directly or indirectly; from one person to another. The incidence of infectious diseases varies with age groups. However, at the top of the list we usually have lower respiratory tract infections, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. Malaria and AIDS remain the top two causes of death in Africa. In an era of vaccines, antibiotics, and dramatic scientific progress, these diseases should have been brought under control. Yet they continue to kill at an alarming rate.

Lower respiratory tract infections account for more than 4 million deaths worldwide each year – another great global killer among infectious diseases.

Pneumonia is also considered as one the most common causes of death in the young age group (childhood to teenage hood), most commonly in children with low birth weight or those that are immune-compromised.

A New Trend of Infections

The general trend today is the decline of infectious diseases around the world, compared to chronic diseases. There used to be a time when people in underdeveloped countries were too hardworking to be obese, unable to afford cigarettes (henceforth decreasing their risks of getting lung cancer) and generally died long before reaching their old age. At that time, non- communicable diseases were a ‘rich-world problem’. But not anymore!

Developing countries already bear more than eighty percent of the burden of chronic illnesses. In fact, low and middle income countries account for more than eighty percent of deaths related to heart disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization reports possible deaths from non-communicable diseases to rise by fifteen percent between 2010 and 2020. Chronic diseases are known to affect both men and women almost equally.

Chronic diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent in parts of the world where infectious diseases (like tuberculosis, influenza, measles, and malaria) were the most common cause of death. Recently, healthcare strategies moved from focusing on communicable diseases in children to non-communicable diseases in adults. According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases are increasingly becoming the most common cause of death around the world, even in places where infectious diseases are still rampant. The World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have both published some reports that indicate the rapid increase in chronic conditions around the world.

Some of their findings included the fact that diabetes is now the fifth- leading killer in the Philippines and heart disease is the top killer in most of the rest of the world.

The report also made the observation that over-eating has now taken over hunger as a leading risk factor for illness.

 It really shows the rapid change in the fact that we are now dealing with too much food, too much resources, too much of something that was once and probably is still considered a luxury. 

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