Important Global Health Facts You Need to Know

Global health is the health of the populations of the world. The term global health can be defined as ‘the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide.’

Basically, it means improving the health of the people all over the world. Global health issues include those that transcend borders and are likely to affect political and economical situations globally.

The impact of global health has risen due to globalization which led to increased dependence of countries on each other. There is also greater movement of people across the world with people emigrating and immigrating to different countries.

The increased dependence of countries on each other and large scale cross border movement of human capital means that health issues are no longer country specific; they have become a global issue.

For example, outbreak of Ebola in Africa didn’t confine the virus there; it spread to different parts of the world. Which is why, tackling infectious diseases becomes a global problem to be solved.

There is also the aim of improving lives of people across the world. Global health policies devised by World Health Organization and other philanthropic groups such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on reducing disparity among income groups in access to healthcare, combating child and maternal mortality rates, increasing accessibility to clean water, developing low cost vaccines etc.

Here are some important global health facts you need to know to understand the current global health scenario:

  1. Infectious diseases are still a looming concern

While the overall rate of deaths from infectious diseases like malaria or tuberculosis has decreased when compared to figures in 2000, the number of deaths from infectious diseases is still high.

In 2015 there were an estimated 212 million malaria cases alone, although this is decrease of 40% when compared to 2000. Tuberculosis still remains a major health problem despite being a curable disease. There were about 10.4 million new TB cases in 2015.

The healthcare situation is getting better but it still varies widely depending on the country. While the European region has improved statistics, the African region is still accounted for 92% of malaria related deaths whereas TB fatality rate was at 20%.

  1. Maternal mortality rate is high in developing countries

Maternal mortality rate refers to the annual number of female deaths per 100,000 live births from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management.

Around the world, about 830 women died everyday in 2015, due to complications during pregnancy or child birth. The global maternal mortality rate was 215 per 100,100 live births.

This is a high number when considering the facts that most of these are avoidable deaths if pregnant women have access to regular and better healthcare. Just the presence of a qualified mid-wife, doctor or nurse could significantly lower the deaths during childbirth.

In 2016, millions of births around the globe were not assisted by a trained medical professional or mid-wife. Apart from that, there is lack of hygiene, advanced medical technologies, prevalence dangerous superstitions – all of which put a woman’s as well as her child’s life at risk.

  1. Under nutrition is still a problem among children

Lack of proper nutrition is still causing 1/3rd of all deaths in children below 5 years of age. While the overall percentage of death rate caused by under nutrition has declined to 18%, in some regions, it has increased.

One of the causes of increase in malnutrition is the high cost of food prices. Climate change is also interfering with food production with untimely rains or severe long droughts. This has also led to farmers not being able to earn enough.

So rising food prices due to lower food production and falling incomes have led to a surge in children dying as they don’t have access to quality food that could provide them with necessary nutrients.

  1. Spread of HIV has fallen

There has been a decrease in the spread of HIV thanks to increased awareness about the disease, how it spreads and how to protect against it.

Human Immunodeficiency virus or HIV spreads primarily through unprotected sex although it can also spread through infected needles, blood transfusion and from mother to child during pregnancy.

The number of people reported with HIV in 2013 was 2.1 million, which was lower compared to 3.4 million people in 2001.

  1. Access to safe drinking water has increased

The percentage of people having access to improved and safe drinking water increased from 77% to 87%. Access to clean drinking water could prevent nearly 10% of all global diseases and 6.3% of all deaths.

The target set by WHO for increasing access to safe drinking water was met in 2010; however, the African region was unable to meet its goal Another region falling short of the target was Eastern Mediterranean region.

90% of the people getting access to clean water were urban households belonging to lower middle and middle class. Rural and lower income groups still face disparity in getting access to drinking water.

  1. Deaths due to non – communicable diseases

The general pattern of the epidemiological transition from communicable diseases to non – communicable diseases has occurred in many regions.

From 1990s, deaths from infectious diseases, child birth and malnutrition have decreased while chronic diseases such as heart problems, cancer or diabetes have caused more deaths comparatively.

This likely due to the increasing prosperity around the world which leads to dietary and lifestyle changes that eventually cause cardiovascular, diabetes, blood pressure and other diseases.

However, there are other non – communicable diseases not linked to prosperity. Diseases like cancer and chronic respiratory disease are also major illnesses afflicting people.

In 2015, non – communicable diseases accounted for 70% of overall deaths. These numbers have reduced slightly when it comes to heart diseases in high income countries like USA, but in low and middle income countries respiratory problems are still an issue.

  1. Environmental risks play a role in quality of life

As per the latest estimates, close to 3 million people still use solid fuels like wood, charcoal or dung to cook food and heat their homes.

Burning of solid fuels causes pollutants to be released in the air which people breathe in leading to respiratory diseases and sometimes death.

In 2012, burning of such fuels caused household air pollution leading to 4.3 million deaths globally, with children and women being the most affected.

And the numbers just get worse. In 2014, 94% of the world’s population was living in areas with air pollution far higher than the WHO guidelines. Air pollution in both cities and rural areas has been estimated to cause 3 million deaths.

Other environmental factors include lack of proper sanitation facilities which leads to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea etc. Pesticide and carbon – monoxide poisoning also caused about 108, 000 deaths in 2015.

  1. Access to family planning services and contraceptives

There are about 200 million women around the globe who do not have access to proper contraceptives and family planning services.

Access to family planning services and contraceptives is important as it helps prevent unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions and promotes the well being of women as well as the entire family.

About 64% of the women in African region want to delay or stop child bearing but are unable to do so because of lack of knowledge as well access to facilities such as contraceptives. This is also causing an increase in teenage pregnancies around the world.

Comparatively, things have improves. Compared to 2005 when only 62% of the women had access to such services, in 2016, 77% of the women in reproductive age had their needs met with the help of modern contraceptives.

The global teenage birth rate also dropped, from 47 births per 1000 women in 2007 to 44.1 per 1000 women in 2015.

  1. Violence, accidents and suicides rising causes of death

As income rises and vehicles become more affordable, there has been an increase in deaths due to traffic accidents. Nearly 3500 people die every day in road accidents.

Between 2000 and 2013, the number of traffic deaths increased by 13% globally, affecting mainly pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Recent estimates also show that 23% of the adults have undergone physical abuse and 34% of the women suffered from sexual or physical abuse at some point of their lives.

In 2015, it was estimated that 0.3% of all global deaths directly involved conflicts and wars. Taking into account the indirect ways – lack of food, shelter etc will increase the percentage substantially.

There has also been an increase in self harm, with an estimated 788,000 deaths worldwide in 2015. It accounted for 1.4% of all deaths globally and is the second leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year olds.

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