Non-communicable disease (NCD), including chronic and at times complex disease has overtaken communicable or infectious disease as the number one cause of illness, disability and death globally. Whilst this has been the case for decades in developed countries, NCD is also emerging as the major health problem in developing countries. There are a number of reasons for this change in disease trends. They include better control of infectious disease through sanitation, vaccination and judicious use of antibiotics (notwithstanding the emergence of antibiotic resistance), population aging, urbanisation, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, cigarette smoking and alcohol. Although the threat of epidemics/pandemics remains real, and we have lived through some of these in the past 20 years, such as SARS, H1N1 Swine flu, Ebola virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has over this period of time directed much of its attention to recommending the prevention and management of non-communicable disease.
In its 2014 Global Status Report on non-communicable diseases, WHO reporting on 2012 data indicated that 56 million deaths occurred that year of which 68.0% were due to non-communicable causes. In Australia, chronic disease accounts for 90.0% of all deaths and in China that figure is 79.0%. Globally and in both Australia and China the four commonest forms of NCD are cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease (mostly smoking related), and type 2 diabetes (often obesity related). WHO predicts that over the next 10 years over 80 million people in China will die from chronic diseases and that deaths from diabetes will increase by 50.0%.