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What are Non Communicable Diseases

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration. While they are often referred to as “lifestyle” diseases, NCDS are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.(WHO)

The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are no longer found only in affluent countries. According to PAHO, NCDs are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the region of the Americas and are responsible for 80% of all deaths. 35% of NCD-related deaths occur “prematurely” (between the ages of 30 and 70), thus affecting the productivity capacity of countries. In addition, high exorbitant cost of treating NCDs contributes to the astronomical economic burden:  

  • The direct and indirect costs of treating diabetes and hypertension in 2001 totaled 8% of the GDP of Trinidad and Tobago (5.21% GDP for diabetes and 2.79% GDP for hypertension).

  • Between 2004-2009, public expenditure on drugs and treatment of cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, cancers and hypertension increased from TTD $34 million to $122 million.

The social burden of NCDs is very high as they impact individuals, families and caregivers and communities.

These diseases are driven by forces that include rapid unplanned urbanization, globalization of unhealthy lifestyles and population ageing.

The English-speaking Caribbean has the highest death rate from heart diseases in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean - five of the top ten countries with the highest incidence of diabetes in the Americas are in the English-speaking Caribbean. In the Americas, the English-speaking Caribbean has the highest per capita burden due to NCDs.

Governments have recognized that sustained development is not possible without concerted, accelerated action to address to NCDs in all countries:   

  • In 2007, the CARICOM Heads of Government and State held the first ever Summit on NCDs and made commitments within the Port of Spain Declaration: “ Uniting to stop the epidemic of chronic, NCDs”.

  • In 2011, Heads of State/Government approved the UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. Comprehensive reviews of the progress achieved in the implementation of the Declaration was undertaken by the UN General Assembly in 2014 and 2018

  • Among the Sustainable Development Goals is a goal to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages” and one of the targets is that “by 2030, premature mortality due to non-communicable diseases will be reduced by one third”


1. Pan American Health Organization. Regional Mortality Information System

2. Outcome Document

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