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Cardiovascular Disease and the Changing Face of Global Public Health: A Focus on Low and Middle Income Countries

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Abstract

Eighty percent of the global 17 million deaths due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) occur in low and middle income countries (LMICs). The burden of CVD and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is expected to markedly increase because of the global aging of the population and increasing exposure to detrimental lifestyle-related risk in LMICs. Interventions to reduce four main risks related to modifiable behaviors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, low physical activity and excess alcohol consumption) are key elements for effective primary prevention of the four main NCDs (CVD, cancer, diabetes and chronic pulmonary disease). These behaviors are best improved through structural interventions (e.g., clean air policy, taxes on cigarettes, new recipes for processed foods with reduced salt and fat, urban shaping to improve mobility, etc.). In addition, health systems in LMICs should be reoriented to deliver integrated cost-effective treatment to persons at high risk at the primary health care level. The full implementation of a small number of highly cost effective, affordable and scalable interventions (“best buys”) is likely to be the necessary and sufficient ingredient for curbing NCDs in LMICs. NCDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty. It is therefore important to frame NCD prevention and control within the broader context of social determinants and development agenda. The recent emphasis on NCDs at a number of health and economic forums (including the September 2011 High Level Meeting on NCDs at the United Nations) provides a new opportunity to move the NCD agenda forward in LMICs.

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Correspondence to Pascal Bovet MD, MPH.

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Key Words

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • noncommunicable disease
  • global public health
  • low and middle income countries
  • health systems
  • prevention
  • policy
  • intersectoral action