WHO’s report on ‘Global Health Risks and Life Expectancy’

Few days back the United Nations World Health Organization published its report on ‘global health risks’ those are responsible for millions of premature deaths annually. 

Otherwise, if controlled, global life expectancy could increase five years more.

The Organization says 15 million deaths out of 60 million deaths annually are due to the following five factors:

  • Childhood underweight,
  • Unsafe sex,
  • Alcohol,
  • Lack of pure water and sanitation, and
  • High blood pressure. 

While underweight is responsible for many deaths in poorer countries, obesity or being overweight poses even higher risks in rich countries, and the report finds ‘overweight’ causing more deaths worldwide than underweight. 

Tobacco plays significant role in case of both heart disease and lung cancer. 71% of lung cancer deaths happen from tobacco use. 

WHO summarized world’s leading mortality risks as:

  • high blood pressure – 13% deaths worldwide,
  • tobacco – 9%,
  • high blood glucose – 6%,
  • physical inactivity – 6%, and
  • overweight – 5%. 

One of the interesting things of the report’s findings is the ‘risk transition’ from traditional (like undernutrition, sanitation etc.) to modern day risks (like tobacco, overweight, road traffic safety, air pollution etc.). 

Risk factor: Climate Change 

Although little known, but WHO says, climate change caused nearly 3% deaths from diarrhoea,          3% from malaria and 3.8% from dengue fever in 2004, which together contributed to about 0.2% of all deaths in that year. 

Potential health risks that may arise due to a rise of temperature by 1.1 to 6.4°C between 1990 and 2100 are: thermal extremes, photochemical air pollutants, water borne infections and more. Climate change also poses risks of conflicts over natural resources. 

But the risk factor ‘climate change’ is still a subject of long term study. 

Although WHO expects this report will help ‘governments to figure out which health policies they want to pursue’, but this is a far distant reality in countries burdened with war, civil war or countries that frequently experience natural calamities.

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