Introduction The health care needs of the world’s population are likely to undergo dramatic changes due to the ongoing demographic transition. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cancer, depression and heart disease, are rapidly replacing infectious diseases and malnutrition as the leading causes of disability and premature death. Eighty per cent of total deaths due to non-communicable diseases occur in the low income countries. Men and women are equally affected. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and diabetes are becoming of serious concern, accounting for 52 per cent of deaths and 38 per cent of disease burden in the WHO South East Asia Region (SEAR). With the current trends, the top five causes of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost in 2020 are likely to be ischaemic heart disease, unipolar major depression, road traffic injuries, cerebro-vascular diseases, and chronic obstructive lung disease (1). It has been estimated that a 2 per cent reduction in chronic diseases death rates per year globally could result in saving about 36 million premature deaths by the year 2015 (2).