Cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and diabetes account for 63 percent of all global deaths, yet up to half could be prevented, according to a new report, Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2011, released Wednesday by the  World Health Organization. The report profiles the status of noncommunicable diseases in 193 countries and comes in advance of next week’s U.N. General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.  According to WHO, these main noncommunicable diseases were at one point recognized as health problems unique to “rich” countries, but a staggering increase in cases in developing countries show that this is no longer the case. Poor diet, inactivity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use are the targeted lifestyle risk factors mainly to blame.

“This report indicates where each government needs to focus to prevent and treat the four major killers: cancer, heart disease and stroke, lung disease and diabetes,” said Dr. Ala Alwan, assistant director-general for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO in a press release.

Noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide each year, causing 36 million deaths alone in 2008. Over the next 20 years, the epidemic is projected to accelerate exponentially; by 2030, related deaths are projected to rise to 52 million. The WHO report sets a good baseline from where each government needs to focus to prevent and treat the four major killers.

The first-ever United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases will be held in New York, Sept. 19-20. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, is among the appointees to serve as part of this selective delegation as a private sector advisor. Click here for a full list of the delegates. The goal of the two-day summit is to discuss strategies to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.