Slow-Motion Epidemics: The Global Threat of Chronic Disease

Slow-Motion Epidemics: The Global Threat of Chronic Disease

E3) Slow-Motion Epidemics: The Global Threat of Chronic Disease

Infectious diseases such as Ebola make headlines as public health threats in poor countries and as fear factors when they spread to rich ones, but slow-motion epidemics of chronic diseases take a far greater toll. Six years ago, the United Nations held its first summit on this issue, focused on cancer, diabetes and heart and lung diseases. These diseases account for more than two-thirds of deaths worldwide. Africa is the only place where infectious diseases, maternal-infant health problems and poor nutrition kill more people than noncommunicable diseases do.

Besides deaths, these diseases cause substantial illness, robbing our viewers and readers of quality of life. Globally, by some estimates, nearly one in 10 adults now has diabetes, suffering devastating consequences such as kidney failure and loss of limbs and sight. Asthma keeps many children from playing outdoors, and the inactivity makes them vulnerable to obesity. Cancer is detected later in developing than in developed countries, and treatment options are far fewer.

Each region or nation has its own profile in terms of the behaviors, genes and environmental factors that fuel these problems. In some, it’s pollution; in others, high blood pressure, smoking or poor diets. Nations also differ widely in the ability of their governments to fight diseases and in resources such as medicines, doctors, clinics and hospitals.

This session will give reporters tools and ideas to cover these topics: how to identify stories that provide useful, actionable information for the public and policymakers; where to find sources and databases to inform reporting; and how to find the human stories that entice readers.