what are non-communicable diseases?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of a long duration, generally slow progression, and occur from a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors. NCDs kill 42 million people annually, with 86 per cent of these deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Often associated with adulthood, NCDs have a significant impact on children and adolescents across the life-course.

icon of a chest x-ray

In 2019, an estimated 38.2 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese. [1]

An estimated 24 million young people, ages 13-15, smoke cigarettes. [2]

Globally, NCDs and injuries together contribute about half of the mortality in people aged 5–14 years. [3]

Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. [4]

To reduce the burden of NCDs in children, adolescents, and young people, countries must address prevention, treatment, and management. 

Critical prevention opportunities include: nutritional status before and during pregnancy, good nutrition, a healthy environment, prevention of injuries, freedom from tobacco and secondhand smoke, prevention of toxic stress, and promotion of mental health and healthy development. 

Young people already affected by NCDs require access to quality treatment and the support to manage their diseases into adulthood. 

NCDs and the Global Goals

In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework of 17 goals identified through an expansive global consultation, and applicable to all countries, were adopted by the global community.Goal 3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” builds on the unfinished agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and adds ambitious new targets.

Within Goal 3, four targets are directly related to NCDs:

By 2030, reduce by one-third, premature mortality from NCDs

Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse

By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

Achieve universal health coverage

Four additional implementation targets are directly connected to NCD prevention and control:
With these targets in mind, countries and national stakeholders should support a life-course approach to health, which promotes good health and healthy behaviors, prevention, early detection and diagnosis, management, rehabilitation, treatment, and care.