About Global NCDs

Men walking along crowded street scene passing by market stalls, groups of people, and motorcycles.

Noncommunicable diseases disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries.

The Leading Cause of Death

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes, are the leading cause of death worldwide and represent an emerging global health threat. Deaths from NCDs now exceed all communicable disease deaths combined. NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to over 7 out of 10 deaths worldwide. Changing social, economic, and structural factors such as more people moving to cities and the spread of unhealthy lifestyles have fueled the NCD crisis that kills 15 million people prematurely—before the age of 70—each year. The high burden of NCDs among working age people leads to high healthcare costs, limited ability to work, and financial insecurity. 

NCDs and Global Health Security

Evidence shows that NCDs and their risk factors increase the likelihood of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 across all age groups, a stark reminder of the role of NCDs in outbreak preparedness and response. NCDs can affect vulnerability to illness, pathogen performance, and the ability of health systems to handle health threats. High rates of NCDs perpetuate poverty, strain economic development, and burden fragile health systems, making countries less resilient when emergencies like infectious disease outbreaks or natural disasters occur. Integrating noncommunicable diseases in global health security approaches is important to addressing emergencies and ongoing health needs, increasing health equity, and building trust among partners.   

Addressing NCDs enhances global economic and health security and supports progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Countries with healthier populations are more stable and prosperous, more viable trading partners, better able to avoid health crises and outbreaks, thus affecting U.S. national interests.  

Fast Facts
  • Every two seconds, a person dies prematurely from an NCD.1
  • 85% of premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.1
  • Low- and middle-income countries are estimated to surpass $500 billion per year in economic losses due to NCDs.3
  • Every $1 invested in proven NCD interventions in low- and lower middle-income countries will generate at least $7 in increased economic development or reduced health care costs by 2030.1
  1. World Health Organization. Noncommunicable diseases country profiles 2018. Accessed September 6, 2019
  2. World Health Organization. Noncommunicable diseases fact sheet. Accessed September 6, 2019
  3. World Economic Forum, Harvard School of Public Health. The global economic burden of non-communicable diseases. Accessed September 6, 2019