Chronic diseases affect the sufferer over a long period of time and generally progress slowly. Some of them – cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, mental illness – represent leading causes of mortality.
Tackling four major risk behaviours – smoking, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle – can help prevent many chronic diseases. But to be effective, such efforts need to be based on targeted health promotion, prevention and early detection.
To efficiently address the challenge of chronic diseases, an integrated, horizontal approach is essential – involving all the relevant levels, from communities to policy makers.
Social and environmental determinants also play an important role in the development of chronic diseases, and there is a clear inequality in the burden of such conditions and in the access to prevention and control.