Prevention among young people is key to curbing NCD Epidemic in Middle East North Africa

New report released by PRB

A new policy report and data sheet from the Population Research Bureau (PRB) presents a snapshot of the current burden of non-communicable disease (NCDs) on people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  The report shares why youth present a critical opportunity to address what the PRB calls a rising epidemic in the region.

The MENA region is broad and diverse.  Although Islam is the prominent religion and Arabic the common language, there is great variety in religious and cultural practices, political environments and economic development.  In 2015, NCDs caused 74% of all deaths in the region which was 4% higher than the global average.  The likelihood of dying prematurely from NCDs was 19%, which is 7% higher than the global average, with cardiovascular disease being the single largest killer. Five MENA countries are named on the list of the top 12 countries in the world with a high prevalence of diabetes.  And new cancer cases in the region are expected to double by 2030.

Coupled with this disease burden is the size of the region’s youth population.  All countries included in this report have seen an increase in the numbers of young people, which are now much larger than the older cohorts. In some countries like Yemen and the West Bank and Gaza, youth make up one-third of the population.  The region also struggles with the highest unemployment rates in the world for youth – of up to 39%.

With the growth of the youth demographic, there is a new opportunity to drive change and improve health outcomes.  This includes looking to young people and implementing health promotion and disease prevention programmes with them and for them.

As the report shares, “by monitoring trends and scaling up feasible, effective interventions to curb NCD risk behaviours among youth, countries in MENA can start their young people on a path towards a healthy adulthood and set the stage for a thriving and prosperous future.”  (pg.4)

In addition to taking readers through each of the four primary risk behaviours and presenting regionally-specific statistics and evidence, the report provides examples of successful interventions in the region and offers suggestions for areas of focus. 

“This report joins several other PRB publications that – for the first time – collate evidence and information on the behavioural risk activities of young people,” says associate director, Global Community Investment, Helen Seibel.  “It’s a timely contribution to global health discussions on NCDs and Adolescents and an important issue not only in the MENA region, but in many countries around the world.  Working with our partners, we are committed to investing in programming, advocacy and research initiatives that help us amplify the importance of NCD prevention with youth.”

The report was funded by a grant from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme.

For more information please visit the Population Reference Bureau or download a copy of the report.