5 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations' health agency says 388 million people around the world are likely to die over the next 10 years from non-communicable illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
In a new report, the UN World Health Organization says simple and cheap action to prevent such diseases could reduce this death toll by as much as 2 percent, saving an estimated 36 million lives.
The report says about 80 percent of global cases of premature heart disease, stroke, and diabetes could be prevented if their major causes -- such as unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking -- were eliminated.
The report emphasizes the economic impact of chronic illnesses, estimating that Russia, for example, could lose $253 billion in income from people dying from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes over the next 10 years.
It says China could lose $558 billion and India $236 billion over this period.
The report says wealthier countries have already proven the benefits of disease prevention, with heart disease rates falling by up to 70 percent in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States within three decades.