Four years ago, a team of scholars from the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum prepared a report on the current and future global economic burden of disease. Science and medicine have made tremendous progress in combating infectious diseases during the past five decades, and the group noted that noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, now pose a greater risk than contagious illnesses. In 2010, the report’s authors found, noncommunicable diseases caused 63 percent of all deaths around the world, and 80 percent of those fatalities occurred in countries that the World Bank characterizes as low income or middle income. Noncommunicable diseases are partly rooted in lifestyle and diet, and their emergence as a major risk, especially in the developing world, represents the dark side of the economic advances that have also spurred increased longevity, urbanization, and population growth. The scale of the problem is only going to grow: between 2010 and 2030, the report estimated, chronic noncommunicable diseases will reduce global GDP by $46.7 trillion.
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