Premature mortality from chronic diseases drops in China, challenges remain huge

BEIJING, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) — The premature mortality rate from major chronic diseases has declined in China, but health challenges caused by the increasingly ageing population and unhealthy lifestyle remain tremendous, health officials and experts said on Wednesday.

The premature mortality rate among Chinese residents due to four major chronic diseases — cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes — was 16.5 percent in 2019, two percentage points lower than the 2015 figure, said Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission (NHC).

China has also seen a significant decrease in the loss of labor caused by such diseases, Li said at a press conference, citing the 2020 Report on Chinese Residents’ Chronic Diseases and Nutrition.

The report was based on the results of a national survey among nearly 600 million Chinese people between 2015 and 2019. The survey was organized by the NHC and carried out by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Center (NCC) and the National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases.

In 2019, 88.5 percent of all deaths were caused by chronic diseases, with deaths resulting from cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases accounting for 80.7 percent, Li said, adding that the proportion of deaths caused by chronic diseases is expected to continue to rise.

He noted that one of the challenges for chronic disease prevention and control is the unhealthy lifestyles of Chinese residents. Problems such as high levels of salt and oil in food, children and teenagers’ frequent drinking of sugary beverages and insufficient physical activity are widespread.

Another challenge is obesity. With more than half of Chinese adults overweight or obese, the incidence rates of hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer have increased from 2015.

But the good news is that the five-year cancer survival rate in China has risen from 30.9 percent to 40.5 percent over the past decade, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points, said He Jie, director of the NCC.

The NHC plans to work with relevant departments to promote the early and comprehensive prevention and control of chronic diseases, while raising public awareness of healthy lifestyles, said Li.

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