Heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer are the major causes of morbidity and mortality in the occupied Palestinian territory, resulting in a high direct cost of care, high indirect cost in loss of production, and much societal stress. The rates of the classic risk factors for atherosclerotic disease-namely, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tobacco smoking, and dyslipidaemia-are high and similar to those in neighbouring countries. The urbanisation and continuing nutritional change from a healthy Mediterranean diet to an increasingly western-style diet is associated with reduced activity, obesity, and a loss of the protective effect of the traditional diet. Rates of cancer seem to be lower than those in neighbouring countries, with the leading causes of death being lung cancer in Palestinian men and breast cancer in women. The response of society and the health-care system to this epidemic is inadequate. A large proportion of health-care expenditure is on expensive curative care outside the area. Effective comprehensive prevention programmes should be implemented, and the health-care system should be redesigned to address these diseases.