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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.

Nowadays, it’s all about eating more, buying more and getting more. Today, we are dealing with diseases that do not kill us quickly anymore, but rather make us go through a painful and slow life (then death), and this because of the fact that they are chronic diseases.

Tim Evans, a health and nutrition specialist at the World Bank stated: “The pattern of illness is changing rapidly, much faster than many expected. Twenty or thirty years ago, we were dealing with diseases that were killers – childhood killers, infectious killers. Now we are dealing with diseases that are not primarily killing but causing chronic illness like heart disease, injury, mental health.”

According to several health officials, people with infectious diseases are living longer because of advanced treatments. Also, because of the poorer diets in developing countries, chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke have surpassed infectious diseases as the leading cause of deaths.

It is also claimed that modern lifestyle habits play a critical role, tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity and poor diet being at the top of the list.

"Countries like China that once had a low-meat diet and thrived on wheat, corn and rice have increasingly become urbanized and developed. The drop in mortality rates for such infectious diseases has opened the door for heart disease and stroke" said Dr. Thomas Aversano, Associate Professor of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

According to the UNAIDS World AIDS Day report 2012, there was a decrease of about 700,000 HIV infections (or more) globally in 2011, compared to 2001.

In Africa for instance, the rate of AIDS-related deaths decreased approximately by one third in the past six years. 

Making Use of the Modifiable Risk Factors

Among other things, the most common and most important modifiable risk factorsfor chronic diseases are:

Continuously unhealthy diet that leads to an excessive calories intake; the persistent lack of physical inactivity, and finally, the chronic use of cigarettes.

Regarding obesity, it has been stated that the prevalence of obesity in adult women will significantly increase over the next 10 years. Mauritius is part of this trend. It is estimated that over two thirds of adult women and half of adult men will be overweight by 2015. Globally, by that date, over 1.5 billion people will be overweight.

  • Some interventions that can be done for the prevention and management of chronic diseases: A well-built public health promotion campaign to sensitize various communities on the long term dangers of both chronic and infectious diseases;
  • Focused prevention programs aimed at reducing the prevalence of specific risk factors such as smoking, alcohol intake and unhealthy diet;
  • Health sector programs that would be targeted towards the identification of individuals with multiple risk factors who are not yet clinically ill; but would surely take advantage of the multiple benefits of early intervention. The programs would also target all individuals with early signs of a chronic disease and who could benefit from early management. 

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