Preventing risk behaviors among young people is key to curbing the noncommunicable disease (NCD) epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to a new set of PRB publications.

NCDs are the leading cause of death globally, and they account for 74 percent of all deaths in MENA. The likelihood of dying prematurely from four main NCDs in MENA is 19 percent, compared to 12 percent in higher-income countries globally. These deaths occur at the peak of individuals’ economic productivity, imposing a significant burden on families and health systems, as well as challenging economic growth and sustainable development.

The four principal NCDs threatening MENA are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. They share four behavioral risk factors:

  • Tobacco use.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Poor diet.
  • Harmful use of alcohol.

These modifiable risk behaviors often begin in adolescence and young adulthood. Since young people ages 10 to 24 account for an average of one in four people in MENA, it is crucial to address the risk behaviors of this young cohort to change the trajectory of NCDs in the region.

This package of publications, supported by the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme (YHP), includes a policy report and data sheet that highlight the importance of taking action now to address NCD risk factors among young people in MENA. The report describes the scale and scope of NCDs and their risk factors in MENA; provides examples of promising policy and programmatic interventions for young people; and highlights the need for data collection and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs to identify the most effective and sustainable interventions for MENA countries. The data sheet includes the latest available data on the four risk factors among young people for 19 countries and territories across the MENA region. See also similar reports produced by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) NCD risk factors among young people in AfricaAsia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

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