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Already reached target of 25 per cent fewer premature deaths
The diseases included in this goal are cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Premature death is defined as death before the age of 70.
A reduction in premature death is one of the goals set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for non-communicable diseases (NCD). Norway committed to follow the targets for the period 2010 to 2025.
Already achieved in 2018-2019
In December, the 2018 statistics for causes of death in Norway were released. A review of figures from the Cause of Death Registry shows that the target for premature death from non-communicable diseases was met at the turn of the year 2018-2019.
In 2010, there were 6 008 deaths before the age of 70 from non-communicable diseases. In 2018, this declined to 5 102 deaths, equivalent to a decrease of 906 premature deaths.
Looking at the number of deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, in 2010 there were 257 premature deaths per 100 000 from the four non-communicable diseases. This decreased to 193 per 100 000 in 2018. The decline was therefore 64 deaths per 100 000, equivalent to 25 per cent.
Cancer and cardiovascular disease contribute most
In particular, the decline in deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease have contributed most. Deaths from diabetes and COPD do not contribute as much because they are not a frequent underlying cause of death before the age of 70.
Figure 1 shows premature deaths per 100 000 population, standardised for changes in population size and age composition over time. The calculation method means that different years are comparable, even if the population increases.
The figure includes the period before 2010 and shows that there has been a steady decline over many years.
“Cardiovascular disease and cancer are still the two most important causes of death in Norway. However, we are getting older before we eventually die from these diseases. This means that many people have more years of life,” says Inger Ariansen, researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. She emphasises that the trend must continue to be closely monitored.
The non-communicable diseases concern lifestyle and living conditions and affect every country in the world, including poor countries. Therefore, WHO has set nine goals to fight these diseases.
In addition to the goal of reducing premature death, others have been set for alcohol use, physical activity, tobacco, dietary salt, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and access to treatment.
For several of the goals, Norway is well on the way. For two of the goals there has been no progress, to increase physical activity and to stop the increase in diabetes and obesity. See overview
New targets for 2030
The WHO's main target for non-communicable diseases has been incorporated into the UN Global Sustainability Goals for 2030. This includes a new target to reduce premature death by a third from 2010 to 2030.
"It will be interesting to see if the decline continues," says Ariansen, adding that the challenge is that Norway may already have extracted much of the effect due to fewer people smoking.
WHO has extended the concept of non-communicable diseases to include mental health and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as including air pollution as a risk factor.
“This means that we also need national figures within these areas to follow the trends,” says Ariansen.