Development, Environment and Chronic Diseases


Nasheeta Peer


CaHReF 2016, Yaoundé Conges hall, 23 – 26 August 2016 , PN 03


South African Medical Research Council


The rapidly changing physical, economic and social environments in which individuals reside today have led tochronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) sweeping the globe. Over the past century, rising industrialisation, urbanisation and mechanisation, evident worldwide, including in Africa, have seen revolutions in transportation, communication, workplace and domestic-entertainment technologies. These have had major impacts on diet and physical activity. Change in dietary patterns away from traditional diets toward higher fat and refined carbohydrate intakeis a product of the modern trade systems and the effect of the global food industry on food-supply chains. The same processes of modernisation have witnessed the appearance of mass-manufactured cigarettes which has facilitated the rapid uptake of cigarette smoking. Further, globalisation and aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry, currently particularly strong in Africa, have been instrumental in the development of the tobacco pandemic.Similarlyaggressive and sophisticated marketing techniques by the alcohol industry have transformedtraditionally low alcohol-consuming cultures into high alcohol-consuming countries. Permissive, industry-friendly, governmental policies on production, marketing, and availability of alcohol, which are common in Africa, contribute to such transitions. Modernisation and development have also contributed to lower physical activity levels.Theconsequences of urban living and employment, coupled with easier access to public transport and a lack of basic infrastructure for exercising, have been associated with increasing sedentary occupationsand reduced physical activity.Even in Africa, the physical activity patterns have shifted from labour-intensive lifestyles to more sedentary and less physically demanding activities. Technology and economic incentives tend to discourage activity; technology by decreasing the energy requirements for routine daily activities, and economics by greater reimbursements for sedentary than active work. Therefore, the uptake of unhealthy diets, excessive alcohol,tobacco use and physical inactivity have resulted in the main NCDs of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases rapidly becoming worldwide epidemics.