WHO: Many Countries Hit by Health Threats from Infectious, Chronic Diseases

Noncommunicable diseases such heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer now make up two-thirds of all deaths globally, due to the population aging and the spread of risk factors associated with globalization and urbanization.

An increasing number of countries are facing a double burden of disease as the prevalence of risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer increase and many countries still struggle to reduce maternal and child deaths caused by infectious diseases, according to World Health Statistics 2011 released by the World Health Organization.

Noncommunicable diseases such heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer now make up two-thirds of all deaths globally, due to the population aging and the spread of risk factors associated with globalization and urbanization. The control of risk factors such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and excessive use of alcohol is becoming more critical. The latest WHO figures showed about 4 out of 10 men and 1 in 11 women are using tobacco and about 1 in 8 adults is obese.

In addition, many developing countries continue to battle health issues such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria that are most likely to kill children under the age of five. In 2009, 40 percent of all child deaths were among newborns (aged 28 days or less).

  • Child mortality has declined at 2.7 percent per year since 2000, twice as fast as during the 1990s (1.3 percent). Mortality among children under five years fell from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009.
  • Maternal mortality has declined at 3.3 percent per year since 2000, almost twice as fast in the decade after 2000 than during the 1990s (2 percent). 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 noncommunicable disease one. Everyone must develop a health system that addresses the full range of the health threats in both areas," said Ties Boerma, director of WHO's Department of Health Statistics and Informatics.

The report also shows 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 remains large.

  • High-income countries have, per capita, on average 10 times more doctors, 12 times more nurses and midwives, and 30 times more dentists than low-income countries.
  • Virtually all deliveries of babies in high-income countries are attended by skilled health personnel. About 40 percent of deliveries in low-income countries have skilled health personnel.

World Health Statistics 2011 is an annual report based on more than 100 health indicators reported by WHO's 193 Member States and other reliable sources.

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