Chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) now constitute the predominant public health challenge worldwide. Close to 70% of global deaths every year are due to these diseases. The four main CNCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases. Unfortunately, the burden of these diseases is rising disproportionately in lower-income countries and populations. Over three-quarters of CNCD deaths now occur in middle- and low-income countries, with 48% of deaths occurring before the age of 70. The leading cause of CNCD death are cardiovascular diseases (over 18 million), cancers (about 9 million), and respiratory diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (about 4 million). Diabetes causes additional deaths numbering around 2 million each year.
Despite the overwhelming disease burden that CNCDs collectively represent, it is now recognized that they can largely be prevented by tackling associated risk factors. For example, over 80% of metabolic disease cases can be prevented upon early risk identification. In cancer too, contrary to the popular notion, only a fraction of cases are hereditary. Accordingly, several cancers are in fact preventable – subject to the early determination of risk.