A global health alliance including US, Indian and Chinese organizations has pledged to coordinate efforts against "chronic non-communicable diseases" that kill millions globally each year.
The Global Alliance for Chronic Disease, which brings together institutions managing an estimated 80 percent of all public health research funding worldwide, announced its first targets for action in a statement this week.
The alliance said it would seek to reduce hypertension, tobacco use and the indoor pollution caused by the types of cooking stoves used in many developing countries.
The group, founded last year by organizations from the United States, China, India, Canada, Britain and Australia, said the three priorities were chosen because they contribute to one in five deaths worldwide each year.
The targets were selected during the organization's inaugural scientific summit, held in November in New Delhi, India.
According to the World Health Organization, which belongs to the group's board, chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) were responsible for some 60 percent of the 58 million deaths worldwide recorded in 2006.
The number of deaths caused by CNCDs is twice the combined total of deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and peri-natal conditions and nutritional deficiencies, according to the alliance.
"The health impact and socio-economic cost of CNCDs is enormous and rising, upending efforts to combat poverty," the group said in a statement.
The three issues targeted by the alliance are believed to be responsible for some 11.5 million deaths per year, almost a third of all deaths associated with CNCDs, the group said.
The unregulated sale of cigarettes in countries like India could kill a billion people over the course of this century if nothing is done, and the number of people suffering from hypertension could rise to 1.5 billion by 2025 without action.
"The epidemic of chronic disease in the world has accelerated. We urgently need to understand how to reverse the trend, not just in small trials, but in all world communities. This new initiative will provide urgently needed resources to find and implement solutions," said David Matthews, a professor at Oxford University and acting executive director of the alliance.
For Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the US National Institutes of Health, the alliance presents a unique opportunity to coordinate proposals, peer reviews, data gathering and evaluation.
"The alliance represents an important new vehicle for making optimal use of limited global resources available to reduce the enormous toll of these largely-preventable diseases," she said in a statement.