Week two|Non-communicable diseases
29 January 2014 - Mayur Paul
Non communicable diseases, such as hypertension, are a growing problem in older people in developing countries. Globally, chronic illness now causes more deaths and disabilties in older people than communicable diseases. As part of our efforts to establish non-communicable diseases as a key priority, HelpAge is working on a diabetes project in the Kyrgyz Republic to improve the quality of life for older people living with diabetes. Read Help Age International next instalment to the Ageing and Enterprise series.

(c) Dominika Kronsteiner | Help Age International 


We live in an ageing world, in which better public health has resulted in longevity. By 2030, those over 60 will outnumber those under 15, with the fastest growth in the developing world.  However, this demographic change has led to an epidemiological transition. The predominance of infectious diseases is shifting to non communicable or chronic disease.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) include a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

They are commonly thought of as “diseases of affluence”. But in reality, four-fifths of deaths from NCDs are in low- and middle-income countries and older people in developing countries are particularly at risk.

Some progress in recognising the burden of NCDs on older people was made at the UN’s September 2011 Summit on NCDs. The Political Declaration adopted at the UN General Assembly recognises ageing as one of the key factors in the rising prevalence of NCDs and that NCDs affect people at every age. The Declaration also replaces the discriminatory term “premature mortality” with “preventable morbidity” and includes Alzheimer’s disease as a named NCD for the first time.

No age limit to health

Help Age International are still working to convince the World Health Organisation not to set age limits on their targets and indicators for measuring progress on NCDs.

Help Age International have recommended the following provisions:

  • All people, regardless of their age, to be included in strategies on detection and diagnosis, prevention, management and treatment.
  • The use of discriminatory language and concepts relating to older age in the NCDs debate to be challenged.
  • Strategies against NCDs to recognise that including older people in prevention, promotion, management and care strategies will substantially reduce the health costs arising from rapidly ageing populations.
  • Diseases prevalent in old age, ranging from blindness to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to be urgently addressed.
  • Governments to ensure the right of older people to primary health care offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as home and institutional care services.


The Impact Hub Fellowship for Longer Lives in partnership with AXA and Swiss Re Foundation is offering entrepreneurs a chance to win £30,000 worth of start-up support to develop an idea that will tackle challenges of an ageing society.


We’ve joined forces with HelpAge International for a series of blogs that will highlight some of the global issues.  HelpAge International is a global network that helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. In the past year, they have helped 624,000 more older people receive new or better pensions and benefits, worth US$258 million more a year.