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April 28, 2008

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Chronic diseases threaten world economy

The rising cost of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory illness, are threatening health systems and economic stability around the world.

The stark warning comes in research prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in conjunction with the World Economic Forum. The reseach analysed information on the direct and indirect costs of chronic diseases to society. It found that productivity-loss associated with workers who have chronic disease are as much as 400 per cent more than the cost of treatment.

Losses in productivity include disability, unplanned absences, reduced workplace effectiveness, increased accidents, and negative impacts on work quality and customer service.

Of major concern is the fact that the incidence of chronic disease is growing “at an astonishing rate”. According to the report, chronic diseases account for more than half of all deaths annually (57 per cent), with that figure expected to rise by 23 per cent over the next 20-25 years. It is thought that the rest of the world will soon catch up with the high incidence of chronic disease in the industrialised world, as it adopts a more sedentary ‘Western’ lifestyle.

To tackle the problem, the report points to new evidence of the effectiveness of workplace-wellness programmes in combatting chronic disease. The PWC and World Economic Forum report ‘Working towards wellness: The business rationale’ is available to download from the Publications page of the PWC website (see link below).

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