Burden of selected chronic non-communicable diseases in a primary healthcare setting in Nuuk, Greenland, compared to a Danish suburb

Marie Balslev Backe*, Per Kallestrup, Kurt Rasmussen, Marit Eika Jørgensen, Michael Lynge Pedersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) constitute a massive global burden and are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. In Greenland, the prevalence of NCDs has historically been low. However, during the past approximately 70 years, life circumstances have changed dramatically resulting in increased life expectancy. Today, the proportion of inhabitants in Greenland ≥65 years has nearly tripled since the 1980s, and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes has increased rapidly within the past decades. The aim of this study was to describe the burden of selected NCDs in a primary care setting in Nuuk and compare it to a modern westernized suburban general practice in Denmark. Methods: The study was performed as a cross sectional register-based study using data extracted from the electronic medical records (EMR) based on diagnosis codes from inhabitants living in Nuuk, Greenland, and a suburb in Denmark. Estimates of prevalence were age-standardized to the WHO world standard population. Results: In both Nuuk and the Danish suburb, the highest prevalence was observed for hypertension (13.2% for both populations), followed by asthma (4.4 and 9.5%, respectively) and diabetes (4.3 and 2.9%, respectively). The age-standardized prevalences of diabetes, COPD, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure, were significantly higher in Nuuk, while seven NCDs including asthma, ischemic heart disease, arthritis urica, psoriasis, hyperthyreosis, hypothyreosis and osteoporosis were significantly higher in the Danish suburb. Conclusion: In contrast to the disease pattern observed in Greenland in the last century, the prevalence of diagnosed NCDs in Nuuk is no longer rare. Thus, the overall prevalence of NCDs in the population of Nuuk is now comparable to or even higher than in the suburb in Denmark. This calls for increased focus on all NCDs in the primary healthcare system in Greenland and adaption of the primary healthcare services to a changed disease spectrum.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5. Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Denmark
  • Greenland
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • prevalence
  • primary healthcare


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