New WMA President urges global action to fight lifestyle diseases

A plea to governments of the world to work with physicians to combat the epidemic of lifestyle diseases before it becomes uncontrollable, has been made by Dr Nachiappan Arumugam, the new President of the World Medical Association.

In his inaugural address at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in Sun City, South Africa, Dr Arumugam, a cardiologist from Malaysia, said governments were not doing enough, either because they did not recognise the enormity of the problem or because they were reluctant to face reality. But now it was time for global action.

‘Advocacy for diet modification, encouraging physical activity, anti-smoking measures and regular medical examination aimed at early preventive actions may look daunting, but without the immediate institution of these measures the world will within the next decade or two face such an enormous problem that it will not be able to handle.’

He said the unparalleled improvement in the health of the world’s population as a result of the remarkable medical discoveries and inventions of the last 50 years seemed to have been short lived. The world again faced new epidemics and challenges.

‘The health of the population of the world seems more vulnerable and more hazardous than ever before in recent history. The last decade has not only seen a resurgence of deadly infections like AIDS and SARS, but also a chronic serious epidemic commonly termed as lifestyle diseases.

‘The number of patients afflicted with obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia and related diseases has been increasing at an alarming rate the world over This surge in lifestyle diseases has not been confined to the wealthier and more developed countries, but has been spreading at an alarming rate in the developing and poorer countries. This current epidemic, affecting people in their prime of life, causes untold misery to individuals, families and countries. The immense drain on the financial resources of the families and the nations has jeopardised the development of sustainable heath care systems in many countries.

‘As life style diseases are chronic in nature and progression insidious, patient’s attention to the problem is delayed and awareness is only drawn to the disease at a late stage making it complex and expensive to treat.

‘In many countries lifestyle diseases affects about thirty percent of the population while in some it affects sixty per cent of the population and is rising incessantly.

‘Researchers and pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop new medicines to control and treat these conditions. Though new medicines are necessary to treat those already afflicted, the only sustainable solution in overcoming this epidemic will be by concerted lifestyle changes and instituting preventive measures.