WASHINGTON – Fewer people are dying from diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections in many West African nations, according to a new scientific analysis of more than 300 diseases and injuries in 195 countries.
However, such progress is threatened by the large numbers of people who suffer from serious health challenges related to childhood wasting, unclean water, and unsafe sex.
These and other significant health findings are being published in a dedicated issue of The Lancet as part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD). The study draws on the work of more than 1,800 collaborators in nearly 130 countries and territories.
“Many nations face significant health challenges despite the benefits of income, education, and low birth rates, while other countries farther behind in terms of development are seeing strong progress,” said Dr. Charles Shey Wiysonge, a GBD collaborator from South Africa who serves as a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, in Cape Town. “Policymakers in all nations – from Afghanistan to Ghana – can use this study to align spending to target the things that will make their communities healthier faster.”
In many West African nations, malaria was the leading cause of death, resulting in 29,878 deaths in Côte D’Ivoire, 192,284 in Nigeria, and 8,891 in Sierra Leone. On the other hand, HIV/AIDS was the top cause of death in Cameroon, leading to 30,555 deaths in 2015.
But the conditions that kill are not typically those that make people sick. The top three nonfatal causes of health loss in West Africa overall were iron-deficiency anemia, low back pain, and depression.
Globally, life expectancy increased from about 62 years to nearly 72 from 1980 to 2015, with several nations in sub-Saharan Africa rebounding from high death rates due to HIV/AIDS. Child deaths are falling fast, as are illnesses related to infectious diseases. But each country has its own specific challenges and improvements, from fewer suicides in France, to lower death rates on Nigerian roadways, to a reduction in asthma-related deaths in Indonesia.
Findings for Western sub-Saharan Africa include:
N While the world has made great progress in reducing deaths of young children, globally,5.8 million children under the age of 5 died in 2015. Of that global figure, 726,576 of those deaths were in Nigeria, 77,063 in Côte D’Ivoire, and 29,093 in Senegal.
N Many countries in the Western sub-Saharan Africa region have reduced deaths of expecting or new mothers, but a few are falling behind. For example, the number of maternal deaths in 2015 in Sierra Leone was 1,595, up from 655 in 1990, and the annual maternal death ratio increased by an average of 2.8% per year. However, in Ghana, the ratio of maternal deaths fell from 476 deaths per 100,000 livebirths in 1990, to 296 deaths in 2015, a drop of 2.3% per year.
The report was released at an event co-sponsored by IHME, The Lancet, and the World Bank in Washington, DC. The study was established in 1990 with support from the World Bank. This year, researchers analyzed each country using a Socio-demographic Index, examining rates of education, fertility, and income. This new categorization goes beyond the historical “developed” versus “developing” or economic divisions based on income alone.
The six papers provide in-depth analyses of causes of death, maternal mortality, deaths of children under age 5, overall disease burden and life expectancy, years lived with disability, and the risk factors that lead to health loss.
In much of the world, giving birth is safer for mothers and newborns than it has been over the past 25 years. The number of maternal deaths globally dropped by roughly 29% since 1990, and the ratio of maternal deaths fell 30%, from 282 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 196 in 2015.
“Development drives, but does not determine health,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, the coordinating center for the GBD enterprise. “We see countries that have improved far faster than can be explained by income, education, or fertility. And we also continue to see countries – including the United States – that are far less healthy than they should be given their resources.”
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Established in 2007, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington in Seattle that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates strategies to address them. IHME makes this information available so that policymakers, donors, practitioners, researchers, and local and global decision-makers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health. For more information, visit www.healthdata.org.
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