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Despite incredible improvements in health since 1950, there are still a number of challenges, which should have been easy to solve. Consider the following:
- One billion people lack access to health care systems.
- 36 million deaths each year are caused by noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. This is almost two-thirds of the estimated 56 million deaths each year worldwide. (A quarter of these take place before the age of 60.)
- Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one group of conditions causing death globally. An estimated 17.5 million people died from CVDs in 2005, representing 30% of all global deaths. Over 80% of CVD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
- Over 7.5 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition and mostly preventable diseases, each year.
- In 2008, some 6.7 million people died of infectious diseases alone, far more than the number killed in the natural or man-made catastrophes that make headlines. (These are the latest figures presented by the World Health Organization.)
AIDS/HIV has spread rapidly. UNAIDS estimates for 2008 that there are roughly:
- 33.4 million living with HIV
- 2.7 million new infections of HIV
- 2 million deaths from AIDS
- Tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people each year, with 9.4 million new cases a year.
- 1.6 million people still die from pneumococcal diseases every year, making it the number one vaccine-preventable cause of death worldwide. More than half of the victims are children. (The pneumococcus is a bacterium that causes serious infections like meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis. In developing countries, even half of those children who receive medical treatment will die. Every second surviving child will have some kind of disability.)
- Malaria causes some 225 million acute illnesses and over 780,000 deaths, annually.
- 164,000 people, mostly children under 5, died from measles in 2008 even though effective immunization costs less than 1 US dollars and has been available for more than 40 years.
These and other diseases kill more people each year than conflict alone.
Why so many needless deaths? The collection of articles below, hope to help shed light on this tragedy.
15 articles on “Health Issues”:
This article looks at some global aspects of health issues, such as the impact of poverty and inequality, the nature of patent rules at the WTO, pharmaceutical company interests, as well as some global health initiatives and the changing nature of the global health problems being faced.
Read “Global Health Overview” to learn more.
This article provides a high level overview of the various ways health services are provided around the world, as well as accompanying issues and challenges. Topics introduced include health as a human right, universal health care, and primary health care.
Read “Health Care Around the World” to learn more.
This article looks into a number of issues of global diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS/HIV, and the global response to them. For example, many people cannot afford medicines for these or other diseases, even though some are easily treatable.
Read “Diseases—Ignored Global Killers” to learn more.
This article looks specifically at AIDS, and the global reaction to it. It seems to have only become a global interest when some rich countries were threatened by it.
Global initiatives have been welcome but slow to get off the ground, while access to drugs and medicines is proving difficult, and, political. Recent years have shown lives being saved, but one can’t help wonder how many more lives could be saved.
Read “AIDS around the world” to learn more.
For a while now, pharmaceutical companies have been criticized about their priorties. It seems the profit motive has led to emphasis on research that is aimed more at things like baldness and impotence, rather than various tropical diseases that affect millions of people in developing countries.
Unfortunately, while a large market therefore exists, most of these people are poor and unable to afford treatments, so the pharmaceutical companies develop products that can sell and hence target wealthier consumers.
In addition, there is concern at how some pharmaceutical companies have been operating: from poor research and trial practice to distorting results, and politically lobbying and pressuring developing countries who try to produce generics or try to get cheaper medicines for their citizens.
Read “Pharmaceutical Corporations and Medical Research” to learn more.
Health information is often sensationalized in the media, with various promises of quick fixes and miracle cures. Yet, that is rarely reality. How has it come to this?
Read “Health in the Media” to learn more.
The AIDS crisis is one example that highlights the motives of some of the larger pharmaceutical corporations. When South Africa wanted to try and produce cheaper drugs to help its own people, by producing more generic and cheaper drugs, these companies actually lobbied the US government to impose sanctions on them!
Read “Pharmaceutical Corporations and AIDS” to learn more.
AIDS in Africa is said to be killing more people than conflicts.
It causes social disruption as children become orphaned and it affects many already-struggling economies as workforces are reduced.
As an enormous continent, various regions are seeing different results as they attempt to tackle the problem. Numerous local, regional and global initiatives are slowly helping, despite significant obstacles (such as poverty, local social and cultural norms/taboos, concerns from drug companies about providing affordable medicines, and limited health resources of many countries that are now also caught up in the global financial crisis).
Read “AIDS in Africa” to learn more.
It is well known that tobacco smoking kills millions. But it also exacerbates poverty, contributes to world hunger by diverting prime land away from food production, damages the environment and reduces economic productivity. Second hand smoking also affects other people’s lives.
Despite many attempts to prevent it, a global tobacco control treaty became international law in 2005.
However, challenges still remain as tobacco companies try to hit back, for example, by targeting developing nations, increasing advertising at children and women, attempting to undermine global treaties and influence trade talks, etc.
Read “Tobacco” to learn more.
Obesity typically results from over-eating (especially an unhealthy diet) and lack of enough exercise.
In our modern world with increasingly cheap, high calorie food (example, fast food — or
junk food), prepared foods that are high in things like salt, sugars or fat, combined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increasing urbanization and changing modes of transportation, it is no wonder that obesity has rapidly increased in the last few decades, around the world.
The number of people overweight or obese is now rivaling the number of people suffering from hunger around the world. Obese people were thought to be mainly from richer countries or wealthier segments of society, but poor people can also suffer as the food industry supplies cheaper food of poorer quality.
Environmental, societal and life-style factors all have an impact on obesity and health. While individuals are responsible for their choices, other actors such as the food industry are also part of the problem, and solution. Unfortunately, the food industry appears reluctant to take too many measures that could affect their bottom line, preferring to solely blame individuals instead.
Read “Obesity” to learn more.
In this section, we look at the example of sugar consumption; how it has arisen (as it was once a luxury, now turned into a
necessity). We look at things like how it affects the environment; the political and economic drivers in producing sugar (for example, historically, sugar plantations encouraged slavery); its health effects today; its relation to world hunger (as land used to grow sugar and related support, for export, could be used to grow food for local consumption); and so on. As we will also see, it is an example of a
wasteful industry. That is, so many resources go into this industry compared to what might be needed. This wastes labor, wastes capital and uses up many resources.
Read “Sugar” to learn more.
Beef, like sugar, is another vivid example of using resources wastefully, degrading the environment, contributing to hunger, poor health and more.
More than one third of the world’s grain harvest is used to feed livestock. Some 70 to 80% of grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock. A lot of rainforest in the Amazon and elsewhere are cleared for raising cattle — not so much for local consumption, but for fast food restaurants elsewhere.
There are enormous related costs of what is an
inefficient process when considered as a whole. Subsidies in farming in the US and elsewhere end up encouraging unhealthy foods to be cheaper than healthy foods. Just factoring in the cost of water alone, a more realistic estimate of the real cost of common hamburger meat would be $35 a pound!
As with sugar, beef was a luxury turned into an everyday item. Like sugar, it is also an example of how people’s tastes are influenced and how
demands can be created (or very much expanded), rather than meeting some
Read “Beef” to learn more.
Issues such as water privatization are important in the developing world especially as it goes right to the heart of water rights, profits over people, and so on. This article looks into these issues and the impacts it has on people around the world.
Read “Water and Development” to learn more.
The global illicit drugs market is enormous, estimated at some $320 billion. This makes it one of the largest businesses in the world. Some believe in strong prohibition enforcement. Others argue for decriminalization to minimize the crime and health effects associated with the market being controlled by criminals. Are there merits to each approach?
Read “Illicit Drugs” to learn more.
An overview of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa that has been described by the World Health Organization as the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak in the history of the disease.
The epidemic began at the end of 2013, in Guinea. From there it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. Many of the affected countries face enormous challenges in stopping its spread and providing care for all patients.
Thousands of people have died and many are at risk as the fatality rate from this virus is very high. As the crisis worsens, as well as the enormous health challenges involved, the social and economic consequences may set these countries back, reversing some gains a number of these countries have made in recent years.
Read “Ebola Outbreak in West Africa” to learn more.
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