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Chronic illnesses haunt developing nations: Study

IANS  |  New York 

With changing diets, alcohol consumption, smoking and less physical activity, the developing countries are now facing the burden of chronic illnesses - already a major and expensive problem in developed countries.

This disturbing trend - along with high rates of infectious disease - is something poor countries can not afford in the long run, say researchers.

"The emergence of chronic disease in developing countries is a 'turning point' because they are facing a confrontation with the same kinds of economic pressures that now bedevil developed countries," said Daniel Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Centre, a non-profit bioethics research institute based in the US.

Chronic illness in these countries has some distinctive characteristics.

For one, it is common to find obesity - a major contributor to chronic disease - and malnutrition in same families.

And chronic illness typically begins about a decade earlier than in developed countries.

Chronic disease would only add to the existing inequities. The treatment is usually expensive and the rich in poor countries are likely to have better access to it.

Callahan proposes a new set of goals for medicine, applicable to both rich and poor countries, which he calls 'sustainable medicine'.

"Nothing less than a revolution - one that overthrows the tyranny of an economically and socially unsustainable model of medicine - is increasingly needed," stressed Callahan.

Chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, cancer, pulmonary disease, and diabetes are rapidly increasing in developing countries which can be tackled with a sustainable model of medicine, said the study published in the Brown Journal of World Affairs.

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First Published: Fri, February 21 2014. 11:36 IST