Charity urges MLAs to act over premature deaths toll
Around 4,600 people die prematurely every year in Northern Ireland, a health charity warned.
Reducing smoking, alcohol consumption and sugar intake are key to saving lives, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in Northern Ireland said.
The organisation called on the Stormont Executive to set a robust target to cut the number of early deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer by a quarter over the next decade.
Head of the charity in Northern Ireland, Jayne Murray, said: "Today 12 families in Northern Ireland will lose a loved one prematurely because of a non-communicable disease, such as heart disease, cancer or dementia.
"If we met the World Health Organisation (WHO) targets, a quarter of these mums, dads, husbands, wives and children would not be robbed of precious time with a much loved family member."
Conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and dementia are responsible for around 13,000 deaths in Northern Ireland each year, or 87% of all mortality.
A total of 4,600 of these deaths were classed as premature (those aged under 75), the campaigning charity added.
Ms Murray said: "If Northern Ireland was to meet the WHO 2025 premature mortality reduction target, 1,150 lives per year would be saved."
Associate medical director of the BHF, Dr Mike Knapton, commented: "The Stormont Executive urgently needs to take action to meet the challenge set by the WHO.
"Preventing disease will play a vital role and we need to use targets like this to drive the public health agenda to reduce tobacco and alcohol use, salt intake, sugar intake, obesity, and raised blood pressure."
He said the organisation fully supported reforming and modernising the health and social care system.
"We believe it is about service redesign. If people with heart failure in Northern Ireland were diagnosed earlier and placed on optimal treatment quicker it would save lives, and if the implementation of the Community Resuscitation Strategy for Northern Ireland that launched in 2013 was funded and finally implemented, it would improve survival rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest significantly," he said.