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Heart Diseases, Strokes: World's Biggest Killers

Heart diseases and strokes become the world's biggest killers, UN report finds

19 May 2008 - Chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke have taken over from infectious diseases as diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis as the leading causes of death around the globe, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) says in a new report.

Based on data collected from the 193 Member States of WHO, the annual report contains measures on 73 separate health indicators covering areas including mortality levels, availability of health-care workers and the prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

"We are definitely seeing a trend towards fewer people dying of infectious diseases across the world," said Ties Boerma, Director of the WHO Department of Health Statistics and Informatics.

"We tend to associate developing countries with infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. But in more and more countries the chief causes of death are non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and stroke."

This year's report highlights several key issues, including the relatively slow increase in life expectancy in Eastern Europe since 1950 when compared with the rest of the continent, the soaring cost of health care worldwide and the effect that has on the poor, and the vast imbalance between maternal mortality rates in rich and poor nations.


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