ISLAMABAD: Heart disease, stroke, pulmonary diseases, diabetes and kidney infections are the five major causes of death in Pakistan, according to the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study carried out of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the United States.
Pakistan currently has the lowest average age in the region. The study found that the largest contributors to the increase in health loss, measured by the number of years lost due to ill health or early death, are neonatal disorders, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Obesity is also going to become a major challenge for Pakistan.
The study suggested that the average age in developed countries, which has increased over the years, may start to decrease due to obesity.
“Diseases and outdoor air pollution over the past 30 years have created a perfect storm, fuelling COVID-19 deaths,” the study said.
The Global Burden of Disease Study was published in the prominent medical journal The Lancet. It was conducted with a number of organisations in 204 countries; the Pakistan Health Services Academy and Aga Khan University (AKU) collaborated as well.
It also said that among major non-communicable diseases (NCD) risks, only smoking has declined substantially. Major efforts to implement international tobacco control policies have seen exposure to smoking fall by nearly 10pc worldwide since 2010.
AKU Department of Medicine Chairwoman Dr Zainab Samad told Media that although some advancements have been seen over the years in terms of communicable diseases, NCDs are a major issue because of they carry 60pc of a load of overall diseases in Pakistan.
“Blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, stroke and diabetes are major diseases. In Pakistan, some focus has been given on primary health services but unfortunately, people do not have the awareness that physical activities are important for their health and there is need to change the behaviour of masses,” she said.
Dr Samad said that the COVID-19 has proved that there was little to no attention given to chronic diseases.
University of Health Sciences Vice-Chancellor Dr Javed Akram said he agreed with the study. He said Pakistan had twice the burden of diseases, meaning that people suffer from communicable and non-communicable diseases simultaneously.
“The infant mortality rate is unacceptably high in Pakistan. According to our study 17pc of the population in Pakistan is suffering from diabetes and it can increase to 25 pc in the next five to seven years. Every second Pakistani is hypertensive, which becomes the reason for heart diseases, stroke and kidney failure,” he said.
Dr Akram said that obesity is becoming a new problem because of peoples’ lifestyles and the consumption of junk food.
“Our parks are disappearing, walking tracks are encroached on and people prefer to travel in their vehicles rather than use public transport. They use elevators rather than stairs, the young generation uses energy drinks but don`t bother to burn the calories,” he said.
Covid-19 deaths globally According to the study, the latest global disease estimates reveal a perfect storm of rising chronic diseases and public health failures fuelling the COVID-19 pandemic. The study analysed 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, which revealed how well the world`s population were prepared in terms of underlying health for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It suggests that urgent action is needed to address the global syndemic of chronic diseases, social inequality and Covid-19 to ensure more robust health systems and healthier people, making countries more resilient to future pandemic threats.
The interaction of COVID-19 with the continued global rise in chronic illness and related risk factors, including obesity, high blood sugar, and outdoor air pollution, over the past 30 years has created a perfect storm, fuelling COVID-19 deaths.
“Most of these risk factors are preventable and treatable, and tackling them will bring huge social and economic benefits. We are failing to change unhealthy behaviours, particularly those related to diet quality, caloric intake, and physical activity, in part due to inadequate policy attention and funding for public health and behavioural research,” IHME Director Prof Christopher Murray, who led the research, said.
Several of the risk factors and NCDs highlighted by the study, including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are associated with increased risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. And diseases also interact with social factors.
Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said, “The syndemic nature of the threat we face demands that we not only treat each affliction, but also urgently address the underlying social inequalities that shape them-poverty, housing, education, and race, which are all powerful determinants of health.”
According to study disability, rather than early death, has become an increasingly large share of the global disease burden-rising from around a fifth (21pc) of total burden in 1990 to more than a third (34pc) in 2019. Global health efforts to tackle infectious diseases and address prenatal care have been successful in improving the health of children aged under 10 years in the past few decades, with the overall disease burden declining by approximately 55pc, but this has not been matched by a similar response in older age groups.
The top 10 contributors to increasing health loss worldwide over the past 30 years, measured as the largest absolute increases in a number of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY), include six causes that largely affect older adults ischaemic heart disease (with numbers of related DALYs increasing by 50pc between 1990 and 2019), diabetes (up 148pc), stroke (32pc), chronic kidney disease(93pc), lung cancer (69pc), and age-related hearing loss (83pc).
In addition, four causes are common from teenage years into old age-HIV/AIDS (128pc), musculoskeletal disorders (129pc), low back pain (47pc), and depressive disorders (61pc).