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Lesson from 2019 Coronavirus disease: A call to address chronic non-communicable diseases

Time: 2023-03-07 17:17:10Views: Source: WHO

This year's outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a serious challenge for China and the world, testing the ability of countries to respond quickly and effectively to the outbreak. The outbreak has also stretched healthcare systems around the world, including China, to the limit.

As of April 1, 2020, the 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak has caused more than 81,000 infections and more than 3,300 deaths in China. Although people are generally susceptible to the virus, the elderly and those with chronic noncommunicable diseases are more likely to develop critical illnesses when infected. [i]


Data published by the CDC on the 2019 coronavirus disease fatality rate (CFR) in China indicate that the rate is particularly high among patients with chronic noncommunicable underlying diseases - 2.3% for overall CFR, 10.5% for patients with cardiovascular disease, 7.3% for patients with diabetes, 6.3% for patients with chronic respiratory disease, and 6.0% for patients with hypertension, and 5.6% for patients with cancer. [ii]


Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes have taken a huge toll in China, causing 88% of all deaths in China. And now, a patient with chronic non-communicable underlying diseases is also more likely to die from 2019 coronavirus disease than other infected patients.


The main factors that cause chronic NCDs are not unknown: smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. And they are all preventable.


In Chinese, the word "crisis" contains both danger and opportunity. The 2019 coronavirus outbreak is a reminder for all of us not to take our health for granted.


Frequent hand washing, keeping social distance, and paying attention to respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing with bent elbows or covering the mouth and nose with paper) are all protective measures we have taken to fight this outbreak. At the same time, we should be alert on the high fatality rate of people with chronic non-communicable diseases to remind everyone that staying healthy is a lifelong job. You can take action today, immediately, right now - quit smoking, maintain a healthy (low salt and oil-sugar) diet, limit or avoid alcohol consumption, get more exercise, and care for our mental health.


Such a crisis also serves as a reminder that staying healthy requires dedication from each of us, as well as long-term commitment from the government and the community.


China's efforts to contain and control the 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak are a good example. The Chinese government's cross-sectoral collaboration and active participation of the entire community prevent the spreading.


China can extend this approach to the field of chronic non-communicable disease control to create a favorable social environment that enables every citizen to pursue physical and mental health.


Prior to the 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak, the prevention and treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases and related high-risk factors was already one of the core components of the Healthy China Initiative 2019-2030, which also details specific measures such as tobacco control, salt reduction, and increased physical exercise. In the case of tobacco control, for example, China has established a goal of reducing adult smoking rates from 26.6% to 20% within 10 years, and has encouraged individuals, families, all of society, and all government departments to do so.


However, much more needs to be done to strengthen the prevention and treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases and to reduce these preventable deaths caused by chronic non-communicable diseases or future outbreaks of epidemics. This includes fully implementing the World Health Organization's series of action guidelines for these health risks, as well as creating a broader environment for all that supports healthy living and empowers everyone to pursue it.


At this time, it is more than ever to put the vision of "health in all policies" into action as a strategy to address the current public health crisis and improve public health.


i. W.-j.Guan, Z.-y.Ni, Y. Hu, W.-h. Liang, C.-q.Ou, J.-x.He, L. Liu, H. Shan, C.-l.Lei, D. S. Hui, B. Du, L.-j.Li, G. Zeng, K.-Y. Yuen, R.-c. Chen, C.-l.Tang, T. Wang, P.-y.Chen, J. Xiang, S.-y.Li, J.-l.Wang, Z.-j.Liang, Y.-x.Peng, L. Wei, Y. Liu, Y.-h. Hu, P. Peng, J.-m. Wang, J.-y.Liu, Z. Chen, G. Li, Z.-j.Zheng, S.-q.Qiu, J. Luo, C.-j.Ye, S.-y.Zhu and N.-s. Zhong,“Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China,” New England Journal of Medicine, 2020.

ii. Report of a joint China-WHO study tour on novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19)