High Injury Toll Stressing World's Health Systems: WHO

The World Health Statistics 2009 report showed some gains against child mortality, but progress so far is insufficient to achieve the 2015 goal of a two-thirds reduction worldwide, said Dr. Ties Boerma, director of WHO's Department of Health Statistics and Informatics. Fourteen percent of all deaths result from injuries.

The global burden of injury-related deaths is substantial: 14 of every 100 deaths around the world, according to the new World Health Statistics 2009 report. Released May 21 during the 62nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, the report says not enough progress is being made to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds, but deaths of children have fallen by 27 percent since 1990.

In real terms, there were an estimated 9 million deaths of children under age 5 in 2007 compared with an estimated 12.5 million in 2000, which is the baseline year for the goal.

"The decline in the death toll of children under five illustrates what can be achieved by strengthening health systems and scaling up interventions, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria and oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea, increased access to vaccines, and improved water and sanitation in developing countries," said Dr. Ties Boerma, director of WHO's Department of Health Statistics and Informatics. "But there needs to be more effort to strengthen health systems in countries affected by high levels of HIV/AIDS, economic hardship, or conflict. Moreover, there is a need to pay greater attention to the poorest groups within countries where progress is often the slowest and child mortality rates remain high."

"Areas where there has been little or no movement are notably maternal and newborn health. An estimated 37 percent of deaths among children aged under five occurs in the first month of life, and most of them in the first week of life," said Dr Boerma. "While the data are patchy and incomplete, it appears that the regions with the least progress are those where levels of maternal mortality are the highest."

The report estimates 1.2 billion people are affected by neglected tropical diseases and says not enough essential medicines are available at public health facilities in some countries. Out of every 100 deaths worldwide, 51 are caused by non-communicable conditions including heart disease, stroke, and cancers; 34 by communicable, maternal, or nutritional conditions; and 14 by injuries.

Boerma, who is Dutch, became director of the department in 2004 with a mission of enhancing the availability, quality, and use of health data. WHO launched the Health Metrics Network this year to help countries strengthen their health information systems.

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