What are non-communicable diseases?

The term “non-communicable disease” covers a very broad range of conditions. Some epidemiologists use “chronic disease” or “non-infectious disease” as equivalent terms.

Examples of non-communicable diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Injuries and violence
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Atopic disorders
  • Reproductive outcomes

Collectively, NCDs are the leading cause of death for women worldwide. They cause 65% of all female deaths, amounting to 18 million deaths each year.1

Ten Leading Global Causes of Death in Females (2008)1

  • Cardiovascular diseases – 33.2%
  • Infectious and parasitic diseases – 13.9%
  • Cancer – 13.0%
  • Respiratory diseases – 7.3%
  • Respiratory infections – 6.6%
  • Unintentional injuries – 5.1%
  • Perinatal conditions – 5.0%
  • Digestive diseases – 3.1%
  • Diabetes mellitus – 2.6%
  • Neuropsychiatric conditions – 2.3%

WHO identifies four main shared risk factors for NCDs. These modifiable risk factors are responsible for the majority of new cases of NCDs.

  • Tobacco use
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Harmful use of alcohol

Women experience several challenges in accessing care as well as prevention services for NCDs. Women’s Global Health Network hopes to change that.

1World Health Organization (2008) Global Burden of Disease 2004 Update Geneva

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