The World Health Organization has released the 2012 edition of their World Health Statistics report, an annual compilation of health-related data from its 194 Member States. This report also summarizes progress being made in achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
While infectious diseases get most of the world’s attention, it continues to be the NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) - like high blood pressure, heart disease , diabetes, and tobacco related illnesses – that exact the greatest toll on human health.
Some excerpts from today’s press release highlights these findings:
16 May 2012 | Geneva - The World health statistics 2012 report, released today, puts the spotlight on the growing problem of the noncommunicable diseases burden.
One in three adults worldwide, according to the report, has raised blood pressure – a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease. One in 10 adults has diabetes.
“This report is further evidence of the dramatic increase in the conditions that trigger heart disease and other chronic illnesses, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “In some African countries, as much as half the adult population has high blood pressure.”
Published annually by WHO, the World health statistics is the most comprehensive publication of health-related global statistics available. It contains data from 194 countries on a range of mortality, disease and health system indicators including life expectancy, illnesses and deaths from a range of diseases, health services and treatments, financial investment in health, as well as risk factors and behaviours that affect health.
Some key trends in this year’s report are:
- Maternal mortality: In 20 years, the number of maternal deaths has decreased from more than 540 000 deaths in 1990 to less than 290 000 in 2010 – a decline of 47%. One third of these maternal deaths occur in just two countries – India with 20% of the global total and Nigeria with 14%.
- 10 year trends for causes of child death: Data from the years 2000 to 2010 show how public health advancements have helped save children’s lives in the past decade. The world has made significant progress, having reduced the number of child deaths from almost 10 million children aged less than 5 years in 2000 to 7.6 million annual deaths in 2010. Declines in numbers of deaths from diarrhoeal disease and measles have been particularly striking.
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Of considerable interest to those of us who follow disease outbreaks around the world is the lack of disease and mortality information available from many low-resource countries.
Among low income countries, only about 1% of deaths (and their causes) are recorded, while just 34 countries – representing 15% of the world’s population – produce high quality cause-of-death documentation.
The two most populous countries in the world – India and China – do not have national civil registration systems in place, and instead generate estimates of births and deaths based on smaller population samples.
All of which helps to explain why, nearly two years after the end of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, we still don’t have a good handle on how many people died from the virus.
This lack of surveillance and reporting extends far beyond just births and deaths, which is why there is so much ambiguity regarding the true prevalence of many diseases (including H5N1) around the world.
Much of the data that is available can be accessed via the WHO’s Global Health Observatory, which allows tailored online searches for health information by country or region.