What are paediatric non-communicable diseases (NCD)?
According to the World Health Organization an estimated 7 out of 10 deaths worldwide are due to non-communicable diseases (NCD), with over 80 per cent of them occuring in low- and middle-income countries. Although ‘only’ 4 per cent of deaths will occur in people under the age of 30, the majority of deaths in adults are linked to conditions or behaviours in childhood or adolescence, such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition or heavy drinking.
Meanwhile, there are chronic diseases that occur in childhood and affect the well-being and the lives of children. Diseases such as rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease, type 1 diabetes, asthma; specific cancers such as leukaemia and lymphomas; epilepsy; and diseases of the blood such as Thalassaemia or Sickle Cell Disease. In addition to that, 10-20 per cent of children and adolescents experience some sort of mental disorder.
The term ‘non-communicable diseases’ is a little bit misleading because it suggests that they have no infectious origin. This may be true for many of the diseases we are talking about, but not for all. When we talk about NCDs, very often we mean chronic diseases, irrespective of the origin. They are characterised by their duration.