Top Diseases in Chile
The top diseases in Chile are primarily noncommunicable and reflect the development and increased urbanization of the country, currently at 89 percent.

One of the most concerning issues in Chile is the high level of income inequality. Chile is the only South American country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; however, nearly 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty is closely linked with noncommunicable diseases, and high levels of NCDs increase household healthcare costs and hinder efforts to reduce poverty levels. Those in poverty are more likely to use tobacco and have unhealthy diets. The long and expensive treatments associated with NCDs deplete household resources and those in poverty die at a much higher rate due to NCDs compared to their wealthier counterparts. Below are three of the of the top diseases in Chile:

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease
    Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease, is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, often resulting in a heart attack. Some risk factors — such as being male and older — are hereditary. Others that are modifiable behaviors include tobacco use, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and physical inactivity.In 2008, 30 percent of deaths in Chile were due to ischemic heart disease. Through initiatives like the Go Red for Women Campaign, heart disease-related deaths have declined to only eight percent in 2012, though it remains a leading cause of death in the country.
  2. Diabetes
    Combined with cardiac disease, diabetes is estimated to be responsible for half of all deaths in Chile. Diabetes causes the most death and disability combined of all diseases in the country and is therefore considered one of the top diseases in Chile to address.In 2003 only 4.2 percent of the population was diagnosed with diabetes; in 2015 that percentage rose to nearly 10 percent. Gestational diabetes has also increased from one percent in 2003 to five percent in 2015. Public health officials in Chile cite being overweight as a major contributor to the rise of diabetes. The cost per person for diabetes care is approximately $1,500. With high levels of income inequality and the disproportionate impact of NCDs on low-income populations, this high cost and rising prevalence are major concerns.
  3. Ischemic Stroke
    Ischemic stroke occurs when a clot obstructs blood flow to the brain, a result of atherosclerosis — the hardening of the arteries due to fat deposits. The risk of stroke can be reduced through increased physical activity, improved diet, weight loss and stopping tobacco use. Deaths due to stroke in Chile are on the rise; as of 2012, they were the leading killer in Chile, accounting for nine percent of all deaths. While heart disease and diabetes are the focus of Chilean public health efforts currently, the rise of ischemic stroke cannot be ignored.

The most common risk factors for death and disability are dietary risks, high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol and drug use. All these risk factors are modifiable behaviors, and all are large contributors to the three top diseases in Chile. Additionally, almost 30 percent of the population is overweight. Of those individuals over 15 years of age, 76 percent are overweight or obese.

A positive note is that many of the leading causes of death and disability in Chile require similar lifestyle changes – reduction in tobacco usage, increased physical activity and healthier eating habits. Finding effective interventions that promote lifestyle modifications can contribute to the reduction of many of the top diseases in Chile. While Chile implements a tax on tobacco, the only country in the Americas to do so, 39 percent of the population still engages in tobacco use. A comprehensive tobacco law passed in 2013 bans all tobacco advertising, including at the point of sale, as well as requires tobacco prevention education at every level of schooling. The long-term impact of these laws in addition to the tax is to be determined.

To promote healthier eating habits, in 2016 Chile was the first country in the world to require that warning labels be placed on foods high in salt, fat, or sugar content. These labels are in the form of black stop signs, designed to make them more reader friendly. Additionally, items required to be labeled are not permitted to be sold to children under 14 years of age or sold with toy incentives. These items are also not allowed to be sold for purchase in or near schools.

To combat some of the top diseases in Chile, the country is focusing on broad public health measures, particularly those that target the younger population. The country is clearly thinking far ahead, focusing not just on treating diseases currently affecting the adult population, but also attempting to prevent the rise of NCDs as the younger population ages.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

Developing countries are paramount to healthy capitalism and add value to existing markets, as well as open up new opportunities for business. Both Mexico and Chile have more potential as current trading partners. NAFTA and the Chile free trade agreement outline the exact details of the relationship between both respective countries and the U.S.

The bilateral relations between Mexico and the U.S. impact the livelihoods of millions of Americans. More than half of the states in the U.S. have Mexico as their first or second largest export market. Mexico imported $236 billion worth of U.S. products in 2015.

Forty percent of individual parts in Mexican products come from the U.S., and both the U.S. and Mexico benefit from trade by supplying and receiving necessities. Mexico’s purchase of corn amounts to a quarter of total corn that the U.S. exports. Continuing this trade is necessary for both economies, and American farmers say that it is a “beneficial relationship.”

Exports, such as computer and electronic products and fabricated metals, have tripled since free trade was established through NAFTA. Mexico and the U.S. depend on each other’s economies.

Chile is a promising emerging market and has become a major mining country. Recently Barrick and Goldcorp, two major Canadian mining companies, have teamed up to develop one of the largest gold deposits in Chile.

Deals such as this have maintained the growing potential of minerals in the country. Chile has emerged as a viable option for U.S. exports operating in several different industries. Various market reforms give Chile appeal to American markets. Continuous trade will only benefit the U.S., as Chile has a large natural supply of various mining minerals.

Both Mexico and Chile are lucrative developing countries, that with continuous effort, can continue to grow. Aid to both countries will help combat elements of poverty and allow for future business deals with U.S. companies.

Support for both countries enriches U.S. potential internationally. Mexico is currently one of the strongest trading partners for the U.S. and Chile has the potential to become a major market for business, as all exports will enter the country duty-free.

Nick Katsos

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Chile
Water quality in Chile includes many facets and issues that must be resolved. One recent event that has drawn attention to this issue is a drought during the weekend of Feb. 25, affecting five million people. This water quality emergency is due to runoff and debris flows in the Maipo River, which is the main water supply for Chile’s capital Santiago. Runoff is created by drought and wildfires, making it difficult for the land to retain water. When land is unable to retain water, mudslides are created and debris flows.

Chile measures the levels of precipitation, surface water, groundwater and water needed to remove the pollution in order to access its water footprint. These standards were created by the Water Footprint Network and the Chile Foundation.

Not only does poor water quality affect citizens in Chile, it affects entire industries. Copper is a major export from Chile, and mines must use expensive desalination technology in order to have suitable water. In addition, poor water quality affects agriculture. There are projects in place to improve both the removal of contaminants and water quality.

Former military ruler General Pinochet made water a private commodity in Chile in 1980, a move meant to encourage investment in infrastructure used to distribute water. In reality, privatizing water has created high tariffs and removed the incentive to distribute water in low-income areas. Citizens have to pay for water and to have their water quality improved.
The Chilean government has a plan to invest $5 billion into irrigation projects by 2022 and encourage private sector investment in these projects

Water quality in Chile is a multifaceted problem to solve, but there is impressive research and progress being made to resolve it.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Protest and Potential Reform for the Chilean Pension System
In the past, pension analysts, the World Bank, and political figureheads around the world including George W. Bush, have praised the privatized Chilean pension system as one of the most effective in the world.

However, many issues have arisen due to the system, and Chilean retirees are unable to sustain themselves due to small pensions. Many citizens are forced to work past retirement age in order to live at the most basic level.

Following protests from dissatisfied citizens and warnings from international organizations regarding the failing pension system, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet began to explore reform options in 2008.

Under the current system, which was implemented in 1981 under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, workers must contribute 10 percent of their salaries into accounts operated by private businesses called pension fund administrators, or AFPs.

The companies invest the money while employers and the government don’t make any contributions to the workers’ accounts. The funds are controlled by six AFPs and are equal to approximately 71 percent of Chile’s gross domestic product.

Recently, discontent among citizens has reached an all-time high, as fewer and fewer people are capable of surviving solely off the money from their pensions. Although the invested money has helped to boost Chile’s economy in the past, the pension system is rather unreliable.

If the stock market dips or the global markets stray from normal trends, workers lose savings and retirees receive smaller pension checks. Culturally, the Chilean economy is informal and people make inconsistent contributions to their pension accounts, which makes the situation even worse. Currently, the average pension check in Chile is $315, which is less than a monthly minimum wage salary.

Women also fare worse than men due to the fact that they typically earn less, are more likely to retire early and have a longer life expectancy than men. These factors, mixed with a general financial illiteracy among Chilean citizens, have led many people into desperate situations.

In 2008, President Bachelet introduced several pension reforms in an attempt to remedy the failings and move toward a mixed public-private system. She implemented a state-funded minimum pension amount of $140 for those who were unable to save for retirement. Close to 1.3 million Chileans receive this benefit today.

Now, further reforms such as a minimum required contribution from employers, the introduction of a state-run AFP with the hopes of creating competition and efforts to keep fund managers commissions on an equal playing field.

Bachelet stated, “This increase in contributions will allow us to build the foundation for collective savings with solidarity. Part of it will enable raising current pensions and the other part will be used to ensure more equity in future pensions.”

As long as the Chilean pension system follows through with these reforms and takes care of their growing aging population, outside parties may still be able to look at Chile as having one of the most effective pension systems in the world.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Chilean Refugees
In 1973, Augusto Pinochet successfully led a military coup in Chile, removing Allende and his Socialist government from power. For many years, Pinochet ruled as a military dictator over the South American country, which forced many citizens to become Chilean refugees. Many Chileans sought asylum in countries such as Britain, Sweden and Canada.

Here are 10 facts about Chilean Refugees:

  1. Repression forced Chileans to flee. Pinochet replaced the liberal government with a right-wing dictatorship. His vicious regime kidnapped, tortured and killed nearly 13,000 citizens, which forced many Chileans to flee.
  2. Canada initially did not want to accept Chilean Refugees. Pressure from churches and local organizations, however, forced the government to change their aid policies. This approach differed from that of the Swedish ambassador who accepted refugees without hesitation.
  3. Chileans entered Canada soon after the violent coup in 1973. After three months of lobbying, Canada accepted nearly 7,000 refugees, all of whom left due to political instability.
  4. There was a large reduction in the second wave of refugees. Between 1979 and 1982, significantly fewer refugees were entering Canada. Only about 1,000 Chileans entered, many of whom were following family and friends. They reunited with separated family members and sought jobs.
  5. The third wave, ending in the 1980s, was reduced even further. Less than 700 refugees entered Canada between 1982-1986. From this point onward, the number of refugees greatly declined.
  6. Canadians accommodated the Chileans. Although Chilean refugees settled in different regions, Canadian institutions helped Chileans create schools, news sources, churches and political organizations. These systems provided Chileans with a community in their new country, allowing them to cope and address anger toward the new Chilean regime.
  7. Britain established World University Service (WUS) scholarships for Chileans. These scholarships, funded by the Labor Government, enabled 900 Chileans, domestic and international, to complete their education.
  8. Over 1 million Chileans were displaced. Although the dictatorship ended in 1990, there are still nearly 1 million displaced Chileans.
    Out of the 1 million Chileans abroad, 12.1 percent have not returned to their native country due to concerns regarding instability.
  9. There are still 40,000 people of Chilean descent living in Canada. These Chileans are part of the labor force contributing to Canada’s flourishing economy.
  10. The Chilean government has stabilized. Since Pinochet, the Chilean government has created policies, such as the Electoral Reform, which ensures equal representation in the government as well as an economic law mandating, “structural surplus equal to 1 percent of the gross domestic product.”

A country that once violated its citizens’ human rights now welcomes Syrian refugees, who are suffering similar injustices. While Chilean refugees constituted a large part of the Canadian population, they are no longer one of the top five groups entering the country.

Some Chileans returned to their native country while others stayed in their new home. As Katherine Knox and Tony Kushner stated in their book, “Refugees in an Age of Genocide,” “Such work at a local level enabled refugees to start rebuilding lives which had been so brutally damaged in their homeland.”

Kristen Guyler

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Chile
Chile is a coastal country in South America housing 17.65 million people, with an estimated 2.5 million living under the poverty line.

Those living below the poverty live and inevitably those experiencing hunger in Chile, have been the recipients of governmental and international aid. In 2014, Chile was recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as having reached the first Millenium Development Goal to reduce the number of those facing hunger in Chile by half since 1990.

Statistics show undernourishment was reduced from 4.3 percent between 1990 and 2015. Currently, 2.5 percent of the population is undernourished.

These reductions are a result of the government-sponsored “Fondo Chile Contra el Hambre y la Pobreza,” or the Chile Fund against Hunger and Poverty. This organization, as well as the UNDP, have funded programs targeting the South-South Cooperation (SSC) and consequently Millennium Development Goals.

The SSC is defined as a developmental program among southern countries to promote, “multi-stakeholder approach, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector, civil society, academia and other actors…”

Through communication and integration, the SSC enables countries to enhance economic, social and scientific potentials.

As the Fund’s handbook stated, this organization encourages Chilean economic prosperity through, “multilateral perspective; which was acknowledged as one of the Millennium Goals, specifically reflected in Goal eight: developing a global partnership for development.”

Central to Chile, however, the issue of hunger has escalated to a triple issue involving under nutrition, obesity and income. Mark Hyman explains this phenomenon, “These foods [processed foods] crowd out more nutrient-dense foods because they are inexpensive and convenient.”

The price difference forces low-income, rural citizens to buy unhealthy foods. When only able to buy and consume unhealthy food, more people will sink into the undernourished population.

To combat this issue, FAO has implemented priority themes, all of which are part of the DRE, decent rural employment promotion. It focuses on “employment-centered responsible agro-investments, gender and age-disaggregated analysis, decent work conditions in agriculture,” and advocacy for natural disasters.

These priorities centralize on the Chilean Fund’s initiatives such as “Malnutrition, Food Security Fostering Employment and Decent Employment, Design of Social Programs…”

These organizations and their programs promote the job market for many men and women who in turn, will receive higher incomes and be able to provide themselves with healthier food.

The already visible success is a positive trend for those living in hunger in Chile. Such achievements will help reduce the number of those living below the poverty line and those who are undernourished.

Kristen Guyler

Photo: Flickr

Seaweed Farming Aids Food Security in South America
Seaweed is a nutrient rich food source that has always been part of many South American indigenous groups’ diets, especially in the Chilean area.

The aquatic plant is currently seeing a revival in the diets of the area. The Inter Press Service (IPS) reports that the wild supply is being harvested from the ocean at a high rate. As a solution, seaweed farming is becoming a new industry. There are over 700 known varieties of seaweed in Chile but only 20 are currently used commercially.

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. states that 25 million tons of algae and seaweed are harvested around the world each year. These seaweeds are used as food, cosmetics and fertilizers. Seaweeds are also used as thickeners and animal food ingredients.

Aquaculture could go a long way in helping to improve hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although the region managed to reduce its proportion of undernourished by 60 percent between 1990 and 2014, FAO reports that hunger still affects 37 million people or 6.1 percent of the population.

Aquaculture, which includes the fish and seaweed farming, provides direct employment to more than 200,000 people and indirect employment to another 500,000 in the area of Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico account for more than 80 percent of the regional aquaculture production, but most of the countries in the area practice some form of aquaculture farming.

FAO reports that marine aquaculture products contribute to food security and the alleviation of poverty. Most workers are employed in small- or medium-sized fisheries and family businesses.

Chile’s seaweed industry alone employs 30,000. Seaweed provides food and food security to rural areas where the poverty rate stands at 47 percent poverty according to a TakePart article. The most grown, harvested and cooked species of seaweed in the country is cochayuyo. It is high in protein and is often found being used in place of meat in traditional dishes.

TakePart reports that not only is seaweed helping to make the poverty-stricken less hungry; the plant is making its way into the kitchens of fancy restaurants. In particular, vegans are regular consumers of kelp. Chile is a leader of environmentally friendly cultivation of seaweed in the local area; they offer incentives to farmers to replant. This will hopefully further help the poor out of poverty.

Many women are active in seaweed farming and as TakePart points out: “Across the globe, when women gain economic independence, childhood malnutrition goes down, and education goes up.”

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

The year 2015, a year characterized by international cooperation and declarations, has notched another important agreement with poverty-reducing implications.

The United Nations affiliated Sustainable Development Solutions Network, whose work it is to mobilize and organize scientific and technical expertise pertaining to sustainable development, launched the Andean Network in June.

The Andean Network is one of nine regional hubs for the SDSN, all of whom aim to strengthen cooperation, kickstart research and implement policies that contribute to sustainable development.

The Andean Network is comprised of Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. With nearly 200 million people, it is headquartered at The University of Investigación de Technología Experimental in Ecuador.

The group will work to further the goals of the SDSN, like meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The SDSN also focuses on 12 thematic groups, including Reducing Poverty and Building Peace in Fragile Regions, Deep Decarbonization Pathways, Health for All, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, and Good Governance of Extractive and Land Resources.

In their launch declaration, the Andean Network highlighted how they planned on meeting their specific regional needs. By concentrating on creating a “region of educational excellence” and not overlooking traditionally marginalized populations, they will create a “base for this region’s long-term sustainable development.”

To get to a point of educational excellence, more networking among universities and research centers are needed. Doing so is expected to foster high-technology enterprises that will benefit from the new research efforts and their findings.

These links will then be extended to government and the private sector, putting the technological advances into “business, public services, and policies.”

Some of the early priorities that the Andean Network hopes to address are sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy production and preserving the biodiversity. The Andean region is the birthplace of the major Amazonian Rivers and holds 90 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers. Once again, they plan on meeting these priorities through quality education.

Other regional SDSN networks include Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, the Sahel, Australia/Pacific, the Caribbean, South Asia, the Amazon and the Great Lakes region in Africa. Each network is able to focus on issues unique to their region while still working under the guiding principles of the SDSN.

A new member of the SDSN group signifies the growing importance and attention given to the SDGs and sustainable development in general. A concerted effort by researchers, students, governments and others will help serve the nearly 200 million people living inside the Andean region.

John Wachter

Sources: Sustainable Development Solutions Network, United Nations
Photo: Flickr

In recent times, some of the largest economic growth in South America has occurred in a small and notoriously narrow country, the Republic of Chile. A standard bearer of free-market capitalism, Chile’s rapid expansion over the past 35 years has been staggering. According to Forbes, “poverty has fallen from 50 percent to 11 percent, per-capita income has increased from 4.000 dollars to almost 20.000 dollars and inflation was reduced from over 250 percent per year to less than 7 percent per year.” Often referred to as the “The Miracle of Chile,” this development seemed to lift the country out of economic and political chaos and into remarkable prosperity.

In 1973, Chile was in dire straits. Its annual rate of inflation had reached 150 percent and its economy was spiraling downward. On top of this, the country experienced the bloodiest coup of 20th century South America in which the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet seized power from the Socialist president Salvador Allende. Over the course of just one month, over 3,000 Chileans lost their lives as military planes strafed and bombed the presidential palace. Ironically, this militaristic dictator became the source of the economic miracle.

General Pinochet promptly began to dismantle Allende’s socialist system and in its place instituted free-market economic policies. To enact these policies, Pinochet gathered together a collection of economists named the ‘The Chicago Group,’ as many members had studied at the University of Chicago. The group endorsed lower tax rates, the privatization of state companies, lower government spending and deregulation. But this growth came at a price to civil liberties and democratic values. In his 1980 constitution, Pinochet set the stage for Chile’s growth by prioritizing economic freedom at the cost of political oppression and social programs.

In 1990, Pinochet failed to retain his office after losing a public election and Chile steered back towards democracy. While his policies in the 1980s had brought the country out of financial failure and into economic prosperity, they left the poorest Chileans behind. Due to tax cuts and lackluster government spending, 45 percent of Chileans still lived in poverty. To the new Chilean government of the 1990s, the next big step was to confront poverty. Their solution was social spending.

Their plan was extraordinarily successful. Between the years of 1989 and 1997, the new Chilean government increased “health and education investments (mostly ignored under Pinochet) by 179.3 and 115 percent respectively,” according to a report from Brandeis University. This social spending helped to dramatically lower poverty; every percentage of growth Chile experienced between 1990 and 1996 counted 50 percent more to the reduction of poverty than under Pinochet’s regime. Ultimately, the poverty rate fell from 39 percent to 20 percent from 1990 to 2000. In comparison, the poverty across South America only fell from 48 percent to 44 percent.

Of all social expenditures, education received the most attention and made the greatest impact. During the 1990s, spending on education grew at a rate of 10.6 percent annually and 274 percent cumulatively over the entire decade. The same Brandeis study mentioned above found that the increases in education spending were particularly effective in decreasing the severity of poverty in Chile.

However, Chile’s expansion, while exceptional, has not exactly been miraculous. According to Brookings Institute, Chile has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Unfortunately, Chile’s education system, particularly higher education, suffers from a similar form of stratification even though it has expanded by 33 percent in the past two decades. In terms of enrollment, 62 percent of Chileans from the upper 20th percentile in income attend institutions of higher education. By contrast, only 21 percent attend from the lower 20th percentile.

While Chile has developed rapidly, due in large part to social spending in education, it has left many of its poorest behind. With the current president Michelle Bachelet planning further tax increases to provide free education to all Chileans, it is possible that another miracle may be on the horizon.

– Andrew Logan

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, Brandeis University, Brookings Institute, Forbes, IFPRI, MIT Poverty Action Lab, University of Hawaii
Photo: SnipView

In 2004 in Iquique, Chile, the for-profit architectural company Elemental designed and built social housing units for 100 impoverished families. The company’s innovative and inexpensive design enabled this low-income community to remain in the city center, retaining access to jobs, healthcare, education and transportation, rather than being forcibly relocated to peripheral zones.

Since the 1960s, the community of 100 families had been illegally settled in slum housing. The living situation was “precarious,” a “maze without any security” with “delinquency problems,” said architect Alejandro Aravena.

In 2003 the Chilean government asked Elemental “to settle the 100 families in the 5,000-square meter-site” according to Archdaily. The government also provided a budget of 7,500 dollars per housing unit.

One and a quarter acres is needed to accommodate 100 families, so Aravena immediately rejected various common social housing models. “Neither the 1 story isolated house nor the two story house or the block were a solution to the question we had to answer” explained Aravena in a video created by Coti Donoso, courtesy of the Chile-Barrio program.

Elemental’s solution was a spin off the common row house design: each housing unit borders an equally sized empty space that the individual family designs and decorates over time. The families’ ability to have freedom and control is critical to the success of the design; they do not feel a Western-constructed design is imposed on them. Rather, they transform their own living space into a home that meets their needs and desires.

Due to the budget constraints, Elemental decided to build parts of the housing units that locals would not be able to build themselves. Each unit was “stabilized for seismic durability and equipped with the barest of basics: plumbing but no fittings for kitchen and bathroom, an access stair, and openings for doorways. Once the modular outlines were completed, residents moved in and began finishing and customizing their spaces at their own expense and at a pace that their incomes allowed, adding color, texture, and vitality,” explained MoMA’s highlight of the design on their website.

“Due to the fact that 50 percent of each unit’s volume, will eventually be self-built, the building had to be porous enough to allow each unit to expand within its structure. The initial building must therefore provide a supporting, (rather than a constraining) framework in order to avoid any negative effects of self-construction on the urban environment over time, but also to facilitate the expansion process,” said Archdaily.

The size of the interior housing unit doubled in square meters for a cost of 1,​000 U.S. dollars per household. On his website, Arevena said that, five years after the project was executed, each unit was valued at “over $20,​000.”

Because of Elemental’s success in Iquique, the company has built over a thousand similar units throughout Latin America and plans to create more in the future.

– Margaret Anderson

Sources: Alejandro Aravena, Arch Daily MOMA
Photo: Flickr