Targeting the five major causes of premature death could increase global life expectancy by almost five years, according to the World Health Organisation. The WHO’s Global Health Risks report, looked at 24 major health risks and concluded that poor childhood nutrition, unsafe sex, alcohol, bad sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure are to blame for around a quarter of the 60 million premature deaths around the world each year.
The world’s poorest countries still face a high and concentrated burden from poverty, undernutrition, unsafe sex, unsafe water and sanitation, the report said. At the same time, dietary risk factors for high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity, coupled with insufficient physical activity, are responsible for an increasing proportion of the total disease burden. “Understanding the relative importance of health risk factors helps governments to figure out which health policies they want to pursue” said Colin Mathers, author of the Global Health Risks report.
Around one quarter of deaths and disease burden in children under 5 years of age is caused by an unhealthy and unsafe environment. Most diarrhoeal deaths in the world (88%) are caused by unsafe water, sanitation or hygiene. Overall, more than 99% of these deaths are in developing countries, and around 84% of them occur in children.
In low-income countries, easy-to-remedy nutritional deficiencies prevent 1 in 38 newborns from reaching age 5. Of the risk factors quantified in this report, underweight is the largest cause of deaths and DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years – the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability) in children under 5 years, followed by suboptimal breastfeeding. These and the other nutrition risks often coexist and contribute to the same disease outcomes.
For further information visit http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/global_health_risks/en/index.html