Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – a collective term for cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and mental disorders – are the leading cause of deaths worldwide. NCDs cause over 60% of the world’s deaths, 80% of which occur in developing countries. It is anticipated that by 2030 NCDs will overtake all other causes of death in Africa. Of the NCDs, CVD is the leading cause of disabilities and death killing 17 million people annually. In September 2011, the United Nations (UN) high level meeting recognized the scale of the NCD problem, the socio-economic impact, and the link to unhealthy lifestyles. Subsequent action by the UN, World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Health Assembly (WHA) has placed NCDs and CVD on the global health agenda.
NCDs, also known as diseases of lifestyle, are a leading cause of deaths and disability in young people in South Africa, second to HIV/AIDS. CVD tops this list of NCDs, yet up to 80% of deaths in young people (< 60 years) are preventable through a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease and strokes are seen more frequently in people in their most productive years, impacts negatively on our labour force and adds a massive burden to the health-care system, leading to a health and economic burden on South Africa.