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Chronic Afflictions in Emerging Regions

Chronic Afflictions in Emerging Regions
Insecticide-treated scarves are being tested in Thailand to fight off drug-resistant malaria.
Photo by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to WHO, some 60 percent of the world’s deaths are caused by such chronic illnesses as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; 80 percent of those deaths occur in low- or middle income countries. In June 2009, a handful of health organizations teamed up to form the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease, a public-private partnership that will coordinate and lead research to reduce the burden of those ailments in the developing world. Among other initiatives, the alliance—whose partners include the US National Institutes of Health, the UK’s Medical Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research—has discussed the development of a “polypill” for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. “Chronic diseases know no boundaries. They affect individuals in every part of the globe,” said Elizabeth Nabel, former director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, when the alliance was first created. Preventing such diseases will not just save lives, she said. It will also “enhance country productivity and lead to greater economic and social success.”

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