The Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) has been recognised as a hot-spot for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The burden of disease is expected to increase substantially over the next few decades, but local data to inform health policies to prevent these problems is lacking.

At the moment, the World Health Organization has estimated that 47% of the region's current burden of disease is considered to be due to such chronic disease, and the Global Burden of Disease project has estimated that this will rise to about 50% by the year 2020.

The main reasons for this are an increase in major risk factors, particularly increasing obesity, as a consequence of changes in nutrition and decreases in physical activity, and increasing tobacco use. Globalisation, urbanisation and an ageing population are also contributing to this trend.

It is sometimes thought that such chronic diseases are 'diseases of affluence', but in fact they are common amongst poorer sectors of populations.

The goal of this project is to contribute towards health improvement in Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, particularly to focusing on cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The overall objective is to be able to make recommendations about the policy initiatives, both within and outside the health sector, likely to be the most effective and cost-effective in reducing the burden of these chronic diseases.

The research objectives include:

1. Searching routine published and government literature in order to identify data sources for cardiovascular disease (stroke and coronary heart disease) and diabetes and their complications, and future data requirements in specific study countries.

2. Developing an epidemiological model for use within the project countries to help explain disease trends and likely future impact of disease.

3. Defining the national policy context and characterising the health system, identifying gaps in policies to reduce these diseases, as well as the perceived level of commitment to existing policies.

4. Developing and evaluating policy options and supporting their implementation.