March 22, 2010 / 7:55 PM / 10 years ago

Cardiovascular ills could hurt economic development

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rising cardiovascular disease rates in developing nations could threaten economic development and a concerted effort by governments, business and aid groups is needed to address the problem, the National Academies Institute of Medicine said in a report on Monday.

Carlos Manuel Lebron Bocion, 13, rests after undergoing cardiovascular surgery at the CEDIMAT hospital in Santo Domingo December 3, 2008. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

“Something has to be done very rapidly because if not, this will have a tremendous impact, economically speaking,” said the chairman of the committee that prepared the report, Dr. Valentin Fuster of Mount Sinai Heart, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death globally, has been seen mostly as a problem for wealthy, industrialized nations. But more than 80 percent of deaths related to heart and circulatory disease worldwide now occur in developing countries, the IOM report said.

A lack of awareness and a lack of leadership are major barriers to combating the growing epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the developing world, Fuster told reporters in a conference call.

The IOM report emphasizes the role of health in economic development, said Rachel Nugent of the Center for Global Development in Washington, who worked on the report.

“The evidence that we have examined shows that CVD reduces productivity and, over the long run, threatens the economic growth potential of low- and middle-income countries,” Nugent said.

Fuster said the private sector has a critical role to play in development prevention strategies — such as helping people reduce salt, sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats in their diets — all contributors to risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

The report also recommended pharmaceutical and medical technology firms, insurance companies, and public health and private aid groups work together to make therapies and diagnostic tools affordable and accessible.

The report urged public and private funding of initiatives to control cardiovascular disease worldwide.

“There’s a staggering lack of funding for cardiovascular disease relative to its impact on illness and death in poor countries,” Nugent said. “Only 3.2 percent of the $22 billion a year in donor assistance for health is devoted to cardiovascular disease and related chronic diseases.”

Editing by Bill Trott

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