Monday, May 16, 2011

Stroke, diabetes, cancer on the prowl, says WHO

NON-COMMUNICABLE diseases like heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer, now make up two-thirds of all deaths globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned ahead of the 64th World Health Assembly, which begins today in Geneva.

A report released by WHO attributed the new health burden to the spread of risk factors associated with globalisation and urbanisation.

According to the World Health Statistics 2011 report, an increasing number of countries are facing health threats from both infectious and chronic diseseas, even as they struggle to reduce maternal and child deaths caused by infectious diseases.

World Health Statistics 2011 is a yearly report based on more than 100 health indicators reported by WHO’s 193 member states and other reliable sources.   These data provide a snapshot of the global health situation and trends.

The latest WHO figures showed that about four out of 10 men and one in 11 women are using tobacco and about one in eight adults is obese.

In addition, the report stated that many developing countries have continued to battle health issues such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria that are most likely to kill children under the age of five.
In 2009, 40 per cent of all child deaths were among newborns (aged 28 days or less). However, the report stated that much more needs to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. It stressed that progress has accelerated with:

• child mortality declining at 2.7 per cent per year since 2000, twice as fast as during the 1990s (1.3 per cent). Mortality among children under five years fell from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009; and,

• maternal mortality declined at 3.3 per cent per year since 2000, almost twice as fast in the decade after 2000 than during the 1990s ( two per cent). The number of women dying as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased from 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.

“This evidence really shows that no country in the world can address health from either an infectious disease perspective or a non-communicable disease one. Everyone must develop a health system that addresses the full range of the health threats in both areas,” Ties Boerma, Director of WHO’s Department of Health Statistics and Informatics said.

The report also showed that more money is being spent on health and people can expect to live longer (life expectancy in 2009 was 68 years, up from 64 years in 1990); but the gap in health spending between low- and high-income countries remained very large.

“World Health Statistics 2011 provide clear evidence of the improvements occurring in information gathering, there are still large gaps in global health data,” Colin Mathers, Coordinator of Mortality and Burden of Disease at WHO said.

“WHO is committed to working with its member states, other UN agencies and partners to continue to improve the information available to monitor the health of the world’s people and the effectiveness of health systems and interventions,” he added.

The release of the report coincided with the launch of WHO’s new Global Health Observatory, a new website that serves as a one-stop shop for data and analyses on health priorities around the world.

The observatory provides easy access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of health data, bringing together WHO’s data from all major health and disease programmes.

It includes easy access to over 50 databases and 800 indicators with analyses of the global health situation and trends, covering priority health topics such as child, maternal and reproductive health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and risk factors, environmental health, mortality and burden of diseases, road safety, health systems and equity.

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