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Noncommunicable diseases now biggest killers: WHO
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Chronic diseases such as heart trouble and stroke have replaced infectious diseases as the chief causes of death globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a new report on Monday.

The shifting health trends indicate that leading infectious diseases -- diarrhea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria -- will become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years, according to the World Health Statistics 2008 report.

"We are definitely seeing a trend toward fewer people dying of infectious diseases across the world," said Ties Boerma, director of the WHO's 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 noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease and stroke," he said in a statement.

The statistical report documents in detail the levels of mortality in children and adults, patterns of morbidity and burden of disease, prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, use of health care, availability of health care workers, and health care financing.

It also draws attention to important issues in global health, including maternal mortality, life expectancy trends in eastern Europe and health-care costs.

World Health Statistics 2008 is the official record of data produced by WHO's technical programs and regional offices in close consultation with member countries and in collaboration with researchers and development agencies.

In publishing these statistics, WHO underlines continuing health challenges and provides an evidence base for strategies to improve global public health.

(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2008)

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