Take a gander at the latest sign of an increasingly modernizing and urbanizing populace: a rise in “desk diseases.” The kind of middle-class health problems most often associated with more well-off urban areas are top killers in India and China.
The big four — high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight — are already linked to 78 percent of deaths in China and 42 percent in India.
We’re talking heart disease, cancer — those modern world killers that result from a bad diet, smoking, prolonged desk work and lack of exercise. Communicable diseases such as influenza, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, on the other hand, tend to appear in less well-off nations that lack things like sanitation.
And it’s no coincidence that this is happening just as life expectancy has soared.
“These diseases, linked to aging populations and greater affluence, have replaced infectious diseases and malnutrition as the dominant causes of ill health and death in much of the world,” the report found.
So, yay, in a way. But it also means that health care systems in India and China will have to rework themselves to tackle these new challenges, which could go so far as to “undermine these countries’ prospects for achieving Western levels of prosperity.”
The World Health Organization has a pledge to slash such deaths by a quarter by 2025 (at least from folks aged 30 to 70). That’s a tall order in nations where access to health care and preventable programs struggle to keep pace with the changing health profile.
Recommendations include looping in the private sector on everything from treatments to preventive measures, like helping people find better food choices.
So maybe Beijing officials would do well to take a page from its sister city, New York, banning smoking and trying to ban oversized sodas. Then again…
Why you should care
Because not all signs of modernization are positive ones.