Institute of Medicine Head Harvey Fineberg discusses growing disease burden in developing nations

Scarce health resources in the developing world are being increasingly stretched by the growing challenge of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases, while infectious diseases and neglected tropical diseases also demand new attention, former HSPH Dean Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, told a packed house Monday, Nov. 8.

Fineberg’s talk, “The Underappreciated Burden: Chronic Illness in the Developing World,” highlighted a new effort to study chronic disease in Africa. Called the Africa/Harvard School of Public Health Partnership for Cohort Research and Training, or PaCT, the project seeks to begin large cohort studies of 500,000 participants in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa to better understand disease in those nations.

Chronic diseases often are associated with industrialized nations, while infectious diseases are considered primary health concerns in developing countries, Fineberg said. In fact, chronic diseases always have been present in developing nations, but infectious diseases like AIDS have captured the public’s attention. Scarce health resources in resource-limited nations are being stressed by new efforts to combat parasitic diseases and other tropical ailments that impact up to a billion people but are largely unknown to people in industrialized nations. This places an increased burden in those countries upon individuals and families to care for loved ones with chronic diseases, Fineberg said.

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Department of Epidemiology