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(Another) New Year: Ten Targets for Health

As another new year approaches, we set out a lot of new targets as usual. Almost everyone will put "healthy" onto their New Year wish list. So let’s talk about health. Below are some references: the government has set out nine local targets on public health and non-communicable diseases to be achieved by 2025. Let’s see how many you can achieve. Target 1: Reduce premature mortality from NCD(A 25% relative reduction in risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases)- Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are major causes of ill-health, disability and death. If not addressed, NCD poses threats to individual’s health and well-being, and family, healthcare system, society, productivity and socioeconomic development. Target 2: Reduce harmful use of alcohol(At least 10% relative reduction in the prevalence of binge drinking and harmful use of alcohol (harmful drinking/alcohol dependence) among adults and in the prevalence of drinking among youth)- Alcohol use is a component cause of more than 200 disease and injury conditions, including heart diseases, cancers, liver diseases, a range of mental and behavioural disorders, and other non-communicable diseases. Alcohol use accounts for considerable health-care resource use, personal suffering, morbidity, death and social consequences. Target 3: Reduce physical inactivity(A 10% relative reduction in the prevalence of insufficient physical activity among adolescents and adults)- Physical inactivity is estimated to be the principal cause for approximately 21–25% of breast and colon cancer burden, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of ischaemic heart disease burden. Maintaining high amounts and intensities of physical activity starting from childhood and continuing into adult years will bring many health benefits, including increased physical fitness (both cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength), reduced body fatness, favourable cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles, enhanced bone health and reduced symptoms of depression. Target 4: Reduce salt intake(A 30% relative reduction in mean population daily intake of salt/sodium)- High salt consumption contributes to raised blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Target 5: Reduce tobacco use(A 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years)- Tobacco kills people prematurely. On average, tobacco users lose 15 years of life. Up to half of all tobacco users will die of tobacco related causes. Smoking contributes to 14% of all deaths from non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and lung disease. Target 6: Contain the prevalence of raised blood pressure- Raised blood pressure (hypertension) is a major cardiovascular risk factor. If left uncontrolled, it can cause heart attacks, stroke, dementia, renal failure and blindness. Hypertension rarely causes symptoms in the early stages and many people go undiagnosed. Early detection, adequate treatment and good control of hypertension are effective in reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease. Target 7: Halt the rise in diabetes and obesity- Diabetes of all types (type 1, type 2, impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glycaemia, gestational diabetes) can lead to complications in many parts of the body, including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, leg amputation, vision loss and nerve damage, leading to disability and premature death. Diabetes imposes a large economic burden on the health-care system and the wider economy. Overweight and obesity are the strongest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Obesity also increases the likelihood of developing other non-communicable diseases such as cancers. Target 8: Prevent heart attacks and strokes through drug therapy and counselling- People with multiple risk factors, such as smoking, raised blood pressure, raised cholesterol and/or diabetes have a higher 10-year risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke, coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease and heart failure occurring. Population-based interventions alone will not be sufficient to prevent heart attacks and strokes for people at such risk level. Providing drug therapy (including glycaemic control of diabetes mellitus and control of hypertension using a total risk approach) and counselling to high-risk individuals are important to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Target 9: Improve availability of affordable basic technologies and essential medicines to treat major NCD- Without effective medicines and essential diagnostic and monitoring equipment made available at health facilities to treat non-communicable diseases (NCD), patients will suffer short and long term adverse effects from their disease. Sustainable health-care financing, health policies that safeguard equitable access, adequate and reliable procurement systems for basic health technologies and essential NCD medicines, training of healthcare workers, and evidence-based treatment guidelines and protocols are all necessary for effective management of NCD. Plus: the 10th target, proposed by the editor, is to maintain your mental wellness. (Click here to read more about Strategy and Action Plan for Prevention and Control of NCD in Hong Kong)