Non-communicable diseases in the Asia-Pacific region: Prevalence, risk factors and community-based prevention
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Faculty of Medicine)
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2015;28(1):20–26
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) lead to substantial mortality and morbidity worldwide. The most common NCDs are
cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. With the rapid increase in NCD-related
deaths in Asia Pacific countries, NCDs are now the major cause of deaths and disease burden in the region. NCDs hamper
achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). People in the low socio-economic group are most affected
by NCDs as they have poor access to policies, legislations, regulations and healthcare services meant to combat NCDs.
This results in loss of productivity by a decreasing labor force with implications at the macroeconomic level. The 3 major
NCDs in the Asia Pacific region are CVDs, cancer and diabetes due to the increasing loss of disability adjusted life years
(DALYs). The 4 major behavioral risk factors for NCDs are: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, inadequate physical activity
and unhealthy diet. The underlying risk factors are urbanization, globalization, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and hypertension.
Strategies to combat NCDs in the Asia Pacific region are as follows: population-based dietary salt reduction, health
education, psychological interventions, i.e., cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational-interviewing, taxation and bans
on tobacco-related advertisements, implementing smoke-free zones and surveillance by the World Health Organization.
Control measures must focus on prevention and strengthening inter-sectorial collaboration.
Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia