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 like South Africa. It is anticipated that by 2030 NCDs will overtake all other causes of death in Africa.
Of the NCDs, CVD is the leading global 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.
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and strokes, is the leading cause of death and disability in South Africa, after HIV and AIDS. It is responsible for almost 1 in 6 deaths, claiming more lives than of all cancers combined. Every day, 225 South Africans die from heart disease and stroke.
Rapid urbanisation in South Africa has seen a change in food consumption patterns where people are consuming more kilojoules, sugary beverages, processed food, and fewer fruit and vegetables. This in combination with other rising CVD risk factors such as physical inactivity and tobacco smoking, has resulted in a steady increase in deaths due to CVD in recent years. CVD places additional pressure on an already heavily-burdened healthcare system and impacts the livelihood of many South African households.