Infectious disease response and coverage is improving worldwide, although noncommunicable diseases are quickly becoming key policy concerns in low- and middle-income countries, World Health Organization officials said in recent reports.
Globally, there is a 19% probability of dying from diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease between ages 30 and 70, a 17% decline from 2000, according to the organization's annual health statistics report.
Still, the total number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases is increasing due to population growth and aging, Liam Donaldson, former chief medical officer for England and a current WHO envoy for patient safety, said in a press briefing May 15 related to his own report on the organization's activities over the past decade.
Within 40 years, 80% of the world's population over 60 years old will be in low- and middle-income countries, Donaldson said. The burden of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke is already increasingly shifting toward these developing regions.
"Looking worldwide, there's no greater challenge for the low- and middle-income countries of the world now in trying to get their policies in place and their action plans in place to prevent and control the noncommunicable diseases," Donaldson said.
On the infectious diseases front, the organization said that coverage for HIV and malaria have improved significantly. An estimated 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2015, 35% lower than the number newly infected in 2000, it said. Meanwhile, 60% of the at-risk population for malaria had access to nets in 2015, up from 34% in 2010.
Overall, almost half of all deaths in the world are now recorded with a cause, WHO said, up from a third of all deaths in 2005.
World progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations members' 2015 follow-up to the benchmarks first set out in the Millennium Development Goals, has continued steadily according to WHO's figures. Infant mortality in particular has dropped significantly; though the maternal mortality rate has also declined, WHO estimates that the average annual rate of decline would need to triple in order to meet the goal of less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030.
Current WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has made universal coverage for essential health needs a focal point of her tenure in recent years. The report stated that recent data from 117 countries show that an average of 9.3% of people in each country spend more than 10% of their household budget on health care.
On May 23, WHO members will cast their votes for the next director-general.