General information

Chronic diseases and conditions which often also have a high mortality rate are important public health issues. 

On a general level, they affect working capacity, and their treatment requires the use of health care services. Hence, these diseases and conditions also affect the national economy. 

From infectious diseases to chronic conditions

Important public health issues change over time. With the rapid decline in infectious disease mortality, chronic diseases and accidents have become the leading causes of premature death in Finland. Over the past few decades, the mortality rate of these causes has decreased, which has resulted in a significantly longer life expectancy.  

As people now live longer, various memory disorders have become more common and are today an important public health issue.

In Finland, chronic diseases and conditions which are considered important public health issues include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma and allergies, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, memory disorders, musculoskeletal diseases and mental disorders. 

Risk factors are the same for several chronic diseases

Many of the risk and protective factors for diseases and conditions that are important public health issues can be effectively managed. Managing these factors can help prevent the onset of chronic diseases and conditions. 

Different chronic diseases and conditions often share the same risk and protective factors. Smoking, for example, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, memory disorders and cancer, whereas physical exercise protects from nearly all those diseases and conditions deemed nationally important public health issues. 

Very often, chronic diseases in the working-age population could be prevented by adopting a healthier diet and a non-smoking lifestyle, by engaging in physical activity, by avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and by preventing obesity. Drug therapy is recommended for people who are at high risk. 

The World Health Organization, WHO, has released its global action plan 2013–2020 for the prevention of chronic diseases having a major impact on public health. Its objective is to reduce the premature mortality caused by chronic diseases and conditions by 25%. 

This objective is achieved by: 

  • Reducing the excessive use of alcohol by 10%
  • Increasing physical activity by 10%
  • Reducing the intake of salt by 30%
  • Reducing the relative number of smokers by 30%
  • Preventing the population from gaining weight
  • Improving the efficacy of drug therapy.

Additionally, a minimum of 50% of the eligible people should receive drug therapy. 

Further information

Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020