Non communicable (or chronic) diseases are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. As the leading cause of death in the world, NCDs represent 63% of annual deaths, according to the World Health Organization. This amounts to more than 36 million deaths. There are four main types of NCDs, namely cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes), cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases (including asthma).
The World Health Organization has recommended that surveillance of major risk factors for NCDs such as tobacco use is imperative to predict the future burden of these diseases. By monitoring emerging patterns and trends, it is possible to identify interventions to reduce the future burden the non-communicable diseases.
Metabolic and behavioral risk factors are the most common causes of non-communicable diseases. Smoking, blood pressure, unhealthy food diet, inactivity, obesity, diabetes (blood sugar), high cholesterol and alcohol. Because many factors associated with disease cannot be modified, emphasis in any surveillance system should be given to the risk factors that are amenable to intervention. Surveillance of just eight risk factors (physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol, obesity etc.) reflecting a large part of the future NCD burden can provide a measure of the success of interventions.