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This Week in PLOS Medicine: Noncommunicable Disease Prevention in LMICs, Active Commutes in Urbanizing India, & Traffic Crashes as a Neglected Issue

This week PLOS Medicine focuses on diet, exercise, and road safety with the following new articles:

Lachat C, Otchere S, Roberfroid D, Abdulai A, Seret FMA, et al. (2013) Diet and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Policy Review. PLoS Med 10(6): e1001465. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465
Lachat C, Otchere S, Roberfroid D, Abdulai A, Seret FMA, et al. (2013). PLoS Med 10(6): e1001465. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465

Nine years after the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health to address risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes), Patrick Kolsteren and colleagues find that only a few low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) have implemented robust national policies to help prevent such diseases. These findings suggest that the majority of the world’s LMICs are not prioritizing the prevention of noncommunicable diseases through evidence-based actions, such as limiting fat and salt intake and encouraging physical activity.  The authors propose that an open-access repository of best practices and what works and what doesn’t in policy development could improve the situation. David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu comment on the malignant neglect of noncommunicable diseases in an accompanying Perspective.

People in India who walk or cycle to work are less likely to be overweight or obese, according to a new study by Christopher Millett and colleagues. Indian cyclists are also less likely to have diabetes or high blood pressure compared to people who take public or private transport to work. These findings suggest that active travel could reduce rates of important risk factors for many chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are projected to increase dramatically in India and other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) over the next two decades. As the percentage of the Indian population living in urban areas climbs to a projected 50% by 2050, health programs should endeavor to increase active travel in urban areas by increasing investment in public transport and improving the safety and convenience of walking and cycling routes in urban areas. Kavi Bhalla discusses the health effects of global motorization in an accompanying Perspective.

Traffic crashes currently result in 1.2 million deaths and 20 million people surviving with disabilities every year, and the average person’s life-time risk of a serious traffic crash is about 40-50%.  Despite a high burden of disease, motor vehicle trauma has not generated proportionate attention among clinical medicine, public health agencies, or the public.  Don Redelmeier and Barry McLellan admonish the medical community and other agencies for failure to act on an ongoing public health epidemic. In an accompanying Perspective, Tracey Pérez Koehlmoos offers a personal view on road traffic crashes and the disappointing lack of visibility of the WHO-led Decade of Action for Road Safety.

In light of this week’s topics, PLOS Medicine reminds readers of our open call for papers into research and commentary on noncommunicable diseases directed toward improving population health and reducing health disparities.


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