3D Printing in Impoverished Nations
3D printing is a technology that has existed since the 1980s. Over time, additive technology has increasingly progressed where various medical applications can use it. 3D printing in impoverished nations has several benefits specifically in medicine and medical services relating to the affordability for the general populous of these nations. 3D printing for medical applications is the process of utilizing a digital blueprint or digital model, slicing the model into manageable bits and then reconstructing it with various types of materials, typically plastic. Here are three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations.

3 Examples of 3D Printing in Impoverished Nations

  1. Custom Surgical Elements: The use of 3D printing has significantly increased in the manufacturing of customized surgical elements, such as splints. Manufacturers can make these devices and components quickly at a relatively low cost, which would greatly reduce the price of sale to the consumer. The reason for the reduced cost of production compared to conventional manufacturing systems is primarily due to the additive nature of 3D printing. For example, 3D printing actually adds material onto each layer, rather than subtracting (cutting/slicing) and combining material. This results in smaller opportunities for error to occur and the wasting of fewer materials in the long run.
  2. 3D Printed Organs: Many know this particular field of 3D medical printing as bioprinting. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, bioprinting involves integrating human cells from the organ recipient into the “scaffolding” of the 3D printed organ. The scaffolding acts as the skeleton of the organ and the cells will grow and duplicate to support physiological function. Although this particular method is still in the experimental stages, there have been successful procedures performed in the past. Researchers at Wake Forest have found an effective method for bioprinting human organs; they have successfully implanted and grown skin, ears, bone, and muscle in lab animals. Further, scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can detect various frequencies, different than a biological, human ear. The researchers behind the creation of this bionic ear theorized that they could use a similar procedure for internal organs. Similar to surgical components, 3D printed organs would greatly reduce the cost of organ transplants. Additionally, it would increase the availability of organs, which are nearly impossible to find. Locating an appropriate match within a specific proximity of the patient has resulted in a global organ shortage. Whilst some have presented a solution in the form of international organ trade, WHO states that international organ trade could provide a significant health concern because of the lengthy trips the organs would experience. 3D printed organs may be a sustainable method to help impoverished nations with supply organs quickly and cheaply.
  3. Prosthetics: 3D printing in impoverished nations could also allow people to print custom prosthetics for those in need. The lack of access to current prosthetics creates a lot of obstacles for people living in impoverished nations. Creating prosthetics with 3D printing technology has the potential to provide a person the ability to accomplish basic, daily tasks in order to support a family. Not only are current prosthetics expensive, but they are also often inconvenient or they prohibit natural motion. For example, Cambodia treats a prosthetic hand as a cosmetic item, leading the majority of the population to refuse the prosthetic due to the lack of functionality. The Victoria Hand project is currently attempting to change this perspective by providing functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands to Cambodia and Nepal. The team has performed user trials, where the aim is to distribute the 3D printed hand to the general populace. Subsequently, the design will go to multiple fabrication services to maximize accessibility.

These three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations show just how important 3D printing is and will continue to be to aiding those in need. With further development, 3D printing should allow people to receive prosthetics and organ transplants more easily.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Wikimedia

Health Care in Sudan
Sudan is rich in natural and human resources; however, it is poverty and conflict-stricken. Agriculture is an income provider for 70 percent of the populace. Due to a lack of resources and training availability, the health care sector of the country remains underfunded and understaffed. Here are ten facts about health care in Sudan.

10 Facts About Health Care in Sudan

  1. Approximately 14 percent of Sudanese do not have access to health care. This is largely due to the fact that Sudan has a critical shortage of health care workers. According to the World Health Organization, there are 23 qualified health care workers per 10,000 members of the population.
  2. Sudan’s maternal mortality rate has improved, but it varies by region. In 2015, the maternal mortality rate was 311 per 100,000 live births. This was a significant improvement from 744 per 100,000 live births in 1990. Unfortunately, these rates are not consistent across the country. While more recent data is not available, in 2006, the maternal mortality rate in Southern Kordofan was 503 per 100,000 live births. In the Northern state, however, the rate was only 91 per 100,000 live births.
  3. Approximately 32 percent of Sudan’s population is drinking contaminated water from untreated water sources. This is a result of chemical and bacterial contamination from industrial, domestic and commercial waste that degrades the water quality. There are acts at the state and national levels to help prevent this washing and injection; however, these acts need activation. UNICEF is working with the Sudanese government to increase access to basic treated water supplies for the people of Sudan, with a focus on women and children.
  4. Sudan suffers from outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever (RVF), chikungunya and malaria. Increased outbreaks in 2019 were, in part, a result of heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Consequently, this rainfall left behind stagnant pools which were breeding grounds for mosquitos, contributing to the spread of infection. Government authorities and their humanitarian partners worked to respond to outbreaks across the country. The Kassala and North Darfur Ministries of Health launched weekly response task force meetings and developed state-level plans to mitigate the outbreak.
  5. Sudan has widespread micronutrient deficiencies. This is partially due to insufficient levels of crop growth. Only 14 percent of 208 cultivable acres are being cultivated. Drought, pests and environmental degradation also contribute to widespread malnourishment. However, vitamin A deficiency decreased due to repeated vitamin A supplementation given during National Immunization Day campaigns.
  6. Many Sudanese women and girls lack adequate health care and resources. Women and girls living in the rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan or the Nuba Mountains of Sudan have very limited or no access to contraception. Human Rights Watch found most of the women interviewed did not know what a condom was and was unfamiliar with other common contraceptive practices. This lack of education and the low availability of condoms are why there are high percentages of women testing positive for hepatitis B. Consequently, gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise in Sudan.
  7. The National Expanded Program on Immunization in Sudan supports an increase in routine immunization coverage. In addition, the government’s financial investment to EPI and polio eradication program is 15 million USD. Challenges the program faces include poor service delivery and a lack of resources and skilled staff.
  8. Sudan spends 6.5 percent of its gross domestic product and 8.3 percent of government spending on health care. Before the 1990s, receiving care at public health care facilities was mostly free. However, the structural reforms of 1992 introduced user fees. Now, out-of-pocket expenses for patients hover in the 70 percent range.
  9. There are 75 degrees and diploma-granting health institutions in Sudan. About 28 of these institutions offer diplomas and 47 of these schools offer degrees. There are 14 private institutions, while the others belong to agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Health and other government agencies. In 2001, the Federal Ministers of Health and Higher Education signed a Sudan Declaration and Nursing and Allied Health Workers in 2001. The goal of the declaration was to improve nursing and other health care education. The Academy of Health Sciences was established in 2005 to help implement this goal.
  10. The Sudanese government is working to rebuild and reform the health care system. A 25-year plan spanning from 2003 to 2027 was created in the early 2000s. This plan focuses on ensuring health care services are accessible and high quality, particularly for impoverished and vulnerable populations.

These ten facts about health care in Sudan illuminate some of the struggles the nation has faced, as well as improvement efforts by the Sudanese government and other humanitarian organizations. It is imperative that these efforts continue in order for health care to continue to progress in Sudan.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

childrens health in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country that has had many years of strife regarding affordable and accessible health care, particularly for families. Many organizations seek to change this so that the country can improve the well-being of its children, the most vulnerable group. Below are seven facts about children’s health in Pakistan.

7 Facts About Children’s Health in Pakistan

  1. Immunizations: UNICEF has been supporting the Pakistani government in ensuring that children have access to routine immunizations. The Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Pakistan works to provide vaccinations to children in both urban and rural communities. In 2018, 75 percent of infants received a third dose of the Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, compared to only 59 percent in 2000. Similarly, in 2018, 67 percent of children received a second dose of the measles vaccine, compared to only 30 percent in 2009.
  2. Pneumonia: Pneumonia is the number one cause of death among children in the world as well as in Pakistan. About 91,000 Pakistani children die from pneumonia each year. However, in 2012, Pakistan was the first nation in South Asia to introduce a pneumonia vaccine to children. Though the vaccine is expensive, international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Alliance for Vaccines Initiative (GAVI) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have begun to include this vaccine in the free immunization program for children.
  3. Child Health and Sanitation Week: Twice a year, Pakistan holds Child Health and Sanitation Week. UNICEF and the Government of Pakistan hold events and marches to raise awareness about children’s health. They provide free immunizations and deworming, and hold information sessions on breastfeeding and hydration. Children and families also learn about the importance of good hygiene and how to prevent certain diseases.
  4. Diarrhea: About 53,000 children die from diarrhea in Pakistan every year. Though diarrhea is another leading cause of death, UNICEF Pakistan supports the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD). The GAPPD trains health care workers, researches causes of illness and provides supplies to help treat and prevent both conditions.
  5. Neonatal Deaths: The government of Pakistan Provides programs on EPI, family planning, maternal/neonatal and child health and primary health care and nutrition for women and children living in rural and remote areas of Pakistan. According to the National Institute of Health, these sorts of programs have the potential to prevent 20 percent of neonatal deaths, between 29 to 40 percent of deaths in children below the age of 5.
  6. Government Projects: The Government of Pakistan has initiated a wide variety of programs aimed specifically towards protecting the health of children and their mothers including the Maternal and Child Health Programme, National Program for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, National EPI Programme, Nutrition Project, Acute Respiratory Infections Control Project and the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Strategy. These projects are able to assist areas of Pakistan that need treatment and prevention supplies for various illnesses in children.
  7. HIV: UNICEF is assisting the Government of Pakistan in preventing HIV cases in children. Though the amount of pediatric HIV cases has increased in Pakistan throughout the last few years, the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission has been researching ways to change this and strengthen the care that infected children receive. The initiative is also working to educate adolescents on HIV prevention.

Pakistan has struggled with providing its families with accessible and affordable health care. However, with many new initiatives, specifically with immunizations, its children will be able to thrive. As the Government of Pakistan has shown, children’s health in Pakistan will continue to be among its priorities.

Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Wikimedia

Sanitation in Peru
Thanks to the government and various international organizations, Peru has made noticeable progress in regards to sanitation and clean water. However, there is still a large amount of room for improvement in the country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Peru.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Peru

  1. Access to Running Water: The water crisis in the suburbs of Peru is complex. Even in more urban areas, running water is still a rare commodity. In middle-class homes just outside of Lima, 3 million people still lack running water. Hand-dug wells are common sources of water in these areas and local citizens may travel miles in order to use the restroom. The country has made progress in the hopes of expanding access to running water. In 2014, the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity established a sustainable source of water in Cuchoquesera and followed this with a similar development in the town of Waripercca. Both communities now have running water.
  2. Sanitation in Schools: The Peruvian water crisis has heavily affected schools. Almost no rural schools have clean bathrooms or working sinks. A lack of proper restrooms and facilities can prevent academic progress. Luckily, sanitation officials in Peru have identified this issue and created a plan to increase infrastructure. This plan should provide suitable and sanitary bathrooms to Peruvian schools by 2030 and educate younger children on hygienic practices, however, donations and investments could speed up the process.
  3. Sanitation in Hospitals: In 2016, 18 percent of health care facilities reported having to operate without running water, leading to problems in water disposal, waste management and an overall inability to perform tasks as simple as cleansing the hands. According to a report from UNICEF and WHO, this can easily lead to life-threatening illnesses, especially for newborns that may be born in these facilities.
  4. Plumbing Systems: Even homes in the suburbs of Lima do not always have toilets. In Peru’s urban areas, about 5 million people do not have a working toilet in their homes. In places where these facilities do exist, the plumbing system is so fragile that flushing toilet paper could do serious damage to the system, or at the very least cause the toilet to clog or flood. The best solution to this less-than-perfect system is to invest more money in plumbing infrastructure or to utilize the “dry toilet” designs that are popping up around the world.
  5. Open Defecation: Despite having dropped since 2000, the percentage of the rural population practicing open defecation still measured around 19 percent in 2017. Experts cannot understate the negative health and sanitation effects of citizens experiencing exposure to human waste. The good news is that the portion of the urban population practicing open defecation is as low as 3 percent and both rates are in a steady decline.
  6. Untreated Drinking Water: Lima’s source of water and the surrounding areas is the Rio Rimac, a river heavily polluted by harmful microorganisms. One of these microorganisms is Helicobacter pylori, a dangerous bacteria that can affect the gastrointestinal tract of those unlucky enough to experience an infection. The good news is that water treatment is seeing a slow uptick in Peru, especially in urban areas. The number of people consuming untreated water has decreased by the thousands since 2000. Public health intervention has begun to focus on treating the water before distribution, partnering with organizations like the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity.
  7. Unsafe Water Affects More Than Drinking: While drinking unsafe tap water is a prominent issue, the problem becomes monumental when one considers everything else that people use water for. Fruit and vegetables that individuals wash in tap water may be dangerous for consumption, as well as drinks with ice and any foods kept on ice.
  8. Unsanitary Practices: While many of the sanitation problems in Peru come from lack of funding or infrastructure, another big problem comes in the form of unsanitary practices. This involves hand-fecal transmission and infection, which may lead to transmission to the face or other individuals in the community. During observation in 2014, 64 percent of those researchers observed potentially contaminated their face, hands or food within one hour of hand contamination. This can be detrimental to the health of Peruvians, as contamination can cause an array of enteric pathogens including salmonella and Escherichia coli. These practices are simply a result of the lack of running water in many parts of the country and lack of awareness of the diseases that fecal transmission can cause. Peru can eliminate this issue by educating Peruvians as children about sanitation and hygiene and by improving the running water system in Peru. There have been attempts to address these issues, including observation and correction of some of these behaviors.
  9. WaterCredit Program: Water.org’s WaterCredit program is quite possibly the jumpstart the nation needs in order to provide running water and sanitary conditions to all of its citizens. The WaterCredit program works with various donating partners to provide plumbing and similar infrastructure to countries that need it. Through this program, Water.org has been trying to reach people in urban areas, like Lima, and provide them with improved indoor bathrooms, sewage collection infrastructure and safe running water. It has reached an estimated 2.5 million people and hopes to reach more within the country in the future.
  10. Stray Dogs: One problem affecting sanitary conditions in Peru is the fact that stray animals, especially dogs, run rampant in cities like Cusco and Mancora. Sadly, due to lack of proper care, these animals can carry various infections that they can spread to humans through direct contact. These infections include rabies, norovirus, salmonella and brucella among others. These infections can have detrimental health effects on humans if contracted and the infected animals may show little to no symptoms.

While the conditions of sanitation in Peru are not yet acceptable, the country has made significant progress in the last decade. It is not an overestimation to say that Peru will continue this forward progress with the help of its citizens and various donating partners. With continued aid from international organizations, the sanitary conditions in Peru could see a significant increase in quality in the next few years.

Tyler Hall
Photo: Flickr

CDC Intervention in Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with a UNDP national poverty index ranking of 68th. The country is also home to one of the world’s most populated cities without a centralized sewage system –  Port-Au-Prince. Although the developing country is vibrant, Haiti is still struggling. Since the initial destruction that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 brought, cholera and HIV have ravaged the nation. However, as a direct result of the CDC intervention in Haiti, the nation has not fallen. The CDC has provided financial and technical assistance to the Government of Haiti (GOH) since 2002. In the 2010 earthquake’s aftermath, the CDC refocused on both immediate health necessities and public health systems within days of the U.N.’s arrival. CDC intervention in Haiti assisted the GOH in developing disease surveillance systems and establishing a competent public health force aimed to aid Haiti in developing a proper disease outbreak response.

This past decade, Haiti has not seen much progress due to reform efforts growing stagnant. Subsequently, the changes the country has seen thus far have turned out to be unsustainable and/or have been ill-fitted solutions to Haiti’s unique predicament. Fortunately, CDC intervention in Haiti has been critical to the continued survival of many, and the number of people saved will hopefully continue to grow.

Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic and the CDC

The GOH and the CDC have also been collaborating to devise a longterm plan to eliminate cholera. CDC intervention in Haiti has increased patient case surveillance, laboratory capacity, oral cholera vaccine (OCV) administration and clean water and sanitation access in efforts to curb cholera’s spread

One of these efforts includes the Haitian Ministry of Health (MOH) building the National Cholera Surveillance System (NCSS) in conjunction with the CDC support. The platform is a rapid identifier of concentrated outbreaks, providing critical guidance to further prevent future outbreaks. Thanks to these efforts, along with others, incidence rates dropped from 112 cases per every 100,000 in 2017 to 25.5 cases for every 100,000 in 2018.

The CDC’s “Foot-Soldiers” in the Battle Against Cholera

Through the design of training programs, protocols and supplemental assistance, the CDC has created an entirely new workforce titled TEPACs or officially the Techniciens en Eau Potable et Assainissement pour les Communes. Having been key in Haiti’s disease prevention, these “foot-soldiers” ensure the safety of water sources, improve sanitation standards and routinely assess communal water systems and sources for free chlorine. They also performed Haiti’s first inventory of those sources; inventory of resources provide valuable information to donation/volunteering groups. Alongside the efforts of the CDC, TEPACs has launched the WASH initiative – coordinated work in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene – in a supplemental effort to eradicate cholera from Haiti.

CDC Impact On the AIDS Crisis

It is estimated that 150,000 people living in Haiti have HIV/AIDS. CDC intervention in Haiti is achieving more control over the AIDS epidemic. Outlining the concern of the epidemic and the impact of CDC support, 98 percent of all pregnant women and 100 percent of TB patients that CDC clinics saw received tests for HIV. Further, all TB patients that tested positive for HIV also received antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018. 

The CDC and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have sought to better medical treatment, fortify health care systems, improve laboratory information networks and cover medical fees. The development of information-sharing systems to track data of HIV patients has saved countless lives.

CDC Provides Household Water Treatment and Storage

The CDC also implemented household water treatment and storage (HWTS) to support adequate sanitary conditions for Haitians. HWTS has the potential to provide safe drinking water in primarily rural households. CDC intervention in Haiti has offered HWTS product certification developmental protocols and a national strategy for HWTS programs and product evaluation. The Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA) intends these programs to support disease prevention and treatment in Haiti.

A Solution to the Underlying Sanitation Problem

While recovery has been slow, CDC intervention in Haiti has been an immensely influential factor in public health. One aspect of public sanitation the CDC does not have a direct influence on is the waste that litters Haiti.

Today, the capital, Port-Au-Prince, is still without central sewage. With every rainfall, a potentially lethal flood of human fecal matter, urine and other harmful substances accompany the water. 

The country is in dire need of infrastructure reforms specifically for the needs of Haiti and its people. The CDC has dedicated itself to controlling and minimizing epidemics, but it has yet to address flooding latrines and a lack of proper sewage disposal systems despite their inflammatory influence on disease.

Flaure Dubois has a potential solution to Haiti’s flood problem. Dubois proposes the Haitian government hire those working to clean latrines, called Bayakous, to create jobs for Haitian citizens. Officializing the Bayakou occupation would bring a wage increase and higher public esteem. If the GOH and the CDC work in conjunction with Bayakous to educate citizens about the dangers of raw sewage, people might be more willing to pay for Bayakou services. Further, it would encourage the sewage shipment to treatment plants, rather than it going into canals. A larger influx of latrine waste enables Haiti’s one functional plant to operate at peak performance and support economic growth in the sanitation sector.

Government-funded Bayakous provide a basis to expand Haiti’s waste-management industry, eventually increasing aptitudes for efficient waste treatment/disposal methods. Expansion of this industry could result in a higher degree of sanitation and a lower rate of disease transmission.

The GOH or the CDC’s involvement in waste management would lead to superior safety and higher circulation of information for Haitian citizens and workers in the sanitation industry. Employing Bayakous has the potential to sponsor the country’s most important pillar in ensuring safe water sources and sanitation. By offering better equipment, methods and working conditions CDC intervention in Haiti can support sustaining health improvements. Haiti needs a sustainable solution to the root of its sanitation problem before it can begin to have lasting-recovery.

– Hana Burson
Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Life Expectancy in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and the second most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of 6.4 million, nearly 50 percent live on just $2 a day. Though Nicaragua’s odds seem to be against it, the last two decades have shown an increase in life expectancy, averaging 74.5 years, which is an increase of six years since the late 90s. There are many contributing factors to this increase. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua’s life expectancy is one year higher than the world average. As of 2019, the world average life expectancy was estimated at 72 years. One can follow life expectancy back to the Age of Enlightenment when only certain countries had the resources to industrialize. Consequently, this affected the distribution of health across the globe. Wealthy countries were healthy, whereas poor countries were not.
  2. Malnutrition and undernutrition is the primary cause of child mortality. Although Nicaragua is an agrarian economy, finding food and clean water is difficult. According to Project Concern International (PCI), nearly one of every five children have chronic malnutrition. PCI implemented the Food for Education project and feeds over 77,000 children every day. The integration between food and education encourages students to continue schooling without worrying about an empty stomach.
  3. Education is free and compulsory. However, travel expenses are costly and serve as an obstacle for low-income rural families. Only 29 percent of children attending school finish their primary education and roughly 500,000 children under the age of 12 are completely out of the education system. Those with more wealth and better health typically have an education of more than 12 years.
  4. Access to onsite health services is widely available. Nicaragua has a total of 32 public hospitals, 21 of which are departmental reference facilities. This means that medical professionals perform a variety of health services like inpatient care for internal medicine or surgery, and even diagnostic lab testing, in one central location. The majority of the hospitals, however, are on the Pacific side of the country, limiting access for those unable to travel.
  5. Nicaragua has the lowest HIV infection rates in Central America. Although case detection is slow (anywhere between two weeks and six months), preventive measures are stopping further spread of the disease. The Ministry of Health implemented case-based-surveillance (CBS) information systems. It continuously collects data on demographics, health events, diagnosis and routine treatment. The system also tracks outbreaks, viral mobility and mortality. CBS information systems support faster public health action.
  6. The Sustainable Sciences Institute (SSI) developed and implemented technologies for low-income health settings. Diagnostic kits are readily available to test for communicable diseases like dengue and leptospirosis. Testing and sampling happen at local or regional labs and lab techniques such as cell culturing receive modifications on-site in low-resource settings.
  7. Nicaraguan health care systems have the support of nonprofits. To name a couple, Project HOPE created the International Diabetes Educator and E-Learning Program to combat the rising threat of diabetes. The program’s aim is to train health care professionals and volunteers. Similarly, the Manna Project created adolescent health education programs in response to teen pregnancy. It also implemented Community Health Promotion, a program to teach communities about healthy lifestyle changes.
  8. Life expectancy for males and females follows the same pattern worldwide. As of 2019, females outlive their male counterparts by four years, averaging 76 years. This is one more year than the world average.
  9. The primary cause of death is noncommunicable disease. Diseases of the circulatory system account for 27 percent of premature deaths. Roughly 13 percent are due to external causes such as suicide and accidents, and nutritional/metabolic-related diseases like chronic malnutrition cause 9 percent of deaths. The Family and Community Health Model that the Pan American Health Organization implemented has improved health service accessibility by renovating the technology and health infrastructure.
  10. Health expenditures are the lowest per capita in Central America. Nicaragua spends about 8.7 percent of its total GDP on health care services and resources. Nicaragua spends roughly $59 on one person with an average of $27 out-of-pocket payment. Out-of-pocket payments directly influence the increase in privatized health care facilities.

The years of dedicated collaboration and innovation created health modifications that directly impact the life expectancy of Nicaraguans. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua illustrate how far it has come in the last 20 years and how far it has to go before it has health, wealth and happiness.

– Marissa Taylor
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Croatia
Croatia is a small country in Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea. It is about 56,594 square kilometers, which is smaller than West Virginia and has a population of about 4.2 million. As of 2018, Croatia’s overall GDP was $60.8 billion, according to the World Bank. The country’s economy received a boost from joining the European Union in 2013 that helped facilitate its recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

However, the country still faces challenges. Due to factors including an aging population, increasing levels of emigration and a declining birth rate, Croatia’s population has been in decline for decades. After reaching a peak of 4.7 million in 1990, the population dipped back to levels that the country saw in 1960. Many expect Croatia’s population to slip to 3.4 million by 2050. Enmeshed within the discussion of Croatia’s population is the aspect of life expectancy. Croatia’s average life expectancy is 77.8 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Croatia

  1. Life expectancy has steadily increased over time. The average life expectancy in 1960 was 64.6. The age has increased ever since with just a few exceptions. There was a slight dip between 1977 and 1985, again between 1991 and 1992 and again from a peak of 78 in 2016 to what it is now.
  2. Croatia’s medical advancements and increased life quality have helped improve life expectancy. Total Croatia News also reported that declines in the past were because of “extraordinary situations” including wars or disasters. The declines in the early ’80s and early ’90s coincided with rising tensions linked to Croatia’s 1991 war for independence from Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia. There have been no recent major events in Croatia.
  3. Life expectancy is higher for Croatian women than men. Echoing the commonality for male versus female life expectancy across the developed world, women in Croatia have a higher life expectancy. For women, the average age of death is 80.9 years old compared to 74.9 years for men.
  4. Historically, life expectancy has differed for Croats living on one of Croatia’s 1,000 islands than those living on the mainland. In the past, male Croatian islanders lived three to 10 years longer than mainland men, while island women lived two to seven years longer than mainland women, according to a study that the Croatian Medical Journal published in 2018. However, researchers found the gap in life expectancy for islanders versus mainland Croats has shrunk, with islanders having lost mortality advantages due to diminishing adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
  5. For the past decade, the leading causes of premature death in Croatia have been ischemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The rate per 100,000 people of deaths due to ischemic heart disease as of 2018 was 1,907.6. Further, the rates of deaths stood at 1,000.5 and 726.8 for stroke and lung cancer respectively. As smoking and diet flaws play a substantial role in these figures, the Croatian government and leading health organizations are gradually working to address these issues. In the early 2000s, the Ministry of Health commissioned its first national survey examining cardiovascular risk problems and formulated a health care intervention program based on the results. In recent years, Croatia created a heart health-focused national e-campaign to reduce salt consumption in diets and other initiatives.
  6. While the leading causes of death have remained stagnant, there have been sharp changes in the top causes of death. Road incidents went from Croatia’s seventh-highest cause of death in 2007 to 13th highest in 2017. A study credits this to the government’s implementation of a new road safety program and enhanced enforcement of laws linked to key problem areas. These areas include speeding, drunk-driving and failure to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease has moved from the eighth highest cause of death to the fifth, which echoes a global rise in the prevalence of the disease.
  7. Concurrent with declining birth rates, infant mortality rates have steadily declined over the last three decades. Croatia’s birth rate per 1,000 people stood at 8.9 in 2017 compared to 14.6 in 1981. During the same time period, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births improved to four from 20.7 in 1981.
  8. Croatia stacks up fairly well against other countries. Croatia’s life expectancy is average compared to its bordering Balkan neighbors. Based on 2017 data, the country’s life expectancy is on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Croatia has a higher life expectancy than Serbia and Hungary and a lower one than Slovenia. Croatia ranked as the 31st healthiest nation in the world in 2019 and its capital city Zagreb ranked as the 16th healthiest capital city in Europe.
  9. There have been reports of problems with health care for women. In 2018, a Croatian parliament member shared a story on the parliament floor about a poorly handled abortion procedure, re-igniting a longstanding national debate about health care for women. The BBC subsequently produced a story on how the member’s story inspired hundreds of other women to share their own experiences.
  10. Croatia’s health triumphs could be a result of its health care system. Croatia has a universal and mandatory health insurance scheme. The program utilizes both private and public care providers and the national Croatia Health Insurance Fund funds the system. The country’s health care system is so well regarded that medical tourism in Croatia continues to grow in popularity.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia show that the health care system is not perfect, indicating life expectancy is not as high as it could be. However, the nation does boast several positive characteristics. The evolving internal and external economics and unfolding policy initiatives in the country are likely to impact life expectancy, as well as other quality of life elements.

Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Facts about LaosLaos is a small, South Asian country that recently experienced a significant increase in its gross domestic product (GDP). Poverty in Laos plummeted from 33.5 percent to 23.2 percent allowing the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal by reducing its extreme poverty rate by half. However, there is still much work to be done. Around 80 percent of Laotians live on less than $3 a day and face a 10 percent chance of falling into poverty. Knowing that poverty and poor health care often co-exist, the government has made it a goal to strengthen its national health care system by achieving universal health coverage by 2020. Below are nine health care facts about Laos.

9 Health Care Facts About Laos

  1. The Food and Drug Department is the regulatory authority for health care in Laos. The body is responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The most recent legislation the country passed is the “Law on Drugs and Medical Products No. 07/NA,” in 2012. The law provided stricter guidelines for drugs and medical products. It also creates a classification for medical devices and registration for drugs and other medical products.
  2. Between 1997 and 2015 Laos’ poverty rate declined from 40 percent to 23 percent. The improvement in life expectancy is likely due to the recent improvements of the government on health care in Laos. For example, in 2011 Laos’ National Government Assembly decided to increase the government expenditure for health from 4 percent to 9 percent, likely influencing poverty rates.
  3. Laos has separate health care programs for different income groups. The country has the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state and private companies, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the country’s poor.
  4. Laos’ current health insurance only covers 20 percent of the population. The lack of coverage could be due to the large spread of the country’s population outside of its major urban centers. Around 80 percent of Laos’ populace live and work in rural communities. The country’s ministry of health has made efforts to provide more services to people who live outside the main urban centers by decentralizing health care into three administrative levels: the central Ministry of Health, provincial administration levels and a district-level administration.
  5. Wealthy Laotians in need of medical care travel to Thailand for treatment. Despite the increased cost of care in Thailand, Laotians travel internationally because of the better quality of care. Health care in Laos at the local levels suffers from unqualified staff and inadequate infrastructure; additionally, inadequate drug supply is a problem. Due to these issues, Laos depends on international aid. In fact, donors and grant funding finance most of the disease control, investment, training and administrative costs.
  6. Many Laotian citizens believe illness is caused by imbalances of spirit, spiritual possession and weather. Despite Laotian spirituality, knowledge of germs as the root cause of the disease is well understood. Laotian hospitals use antibiotics and other medications when they are available. However, folk medicine is often used as a treatment. For example, herbal medicines and spiritual cures include items, such as a special tree bark, which is believed to grant long life when it is prepared with rice.
  7. Many Laotians remain malnourished. Despite recent economic growth, many children under 5 are chronically malnourished; every fifth child in rural areas is severely stunted. Malnutrition is largely influenced by natural disasters. Laos has a weak infrastructure making it difficult to cope with floods, droughts and insect swarms.
  8. Local drug shops as a primary source of medicinal remedies are actually causing problems. Most of these shops are unregulated and the owners are unlicensed. Misprescription and inadequate and overdosage are common. Venders sell small packets of drugs that often include an antibiotic, vitamins and a fever suppressant. They sell these packets as single dose cures for a wide variety of illnesses.
  9. Laos has a high risk of infectious water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Common waterborne diseases include protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Vector-borne diseases include dengue fever and malaria. Typically, diarrheal disease outbreaks occur annually during the beginning of the rainy season when the water becomes contaminated by human and animal waste on hillsides. Few homes have squat-pits or water-sealed toilets, causing sanitation and health issues.

 

As it stands, health care in Laos is still underdeveloped. However, the nation’s recent economic growth provides an opportunity to remedy the problem even though a majority of the current health care system is funded by foreign sources. As with all struggles, the desired outcome will take time. With enough cooperation with other countries and non-profit organizations, Laos has a chance to create a sustainable health care system for its citizens. Increasing health education among Laotians will be one key to improving public health in Laos. This can be done through the help of nonprofit organizations and others aiding in efforts to educate countries on sanitation and health.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

 

Health Improvements in Afghanistan
Conflict has torn Afghanistan apart. Like all conflicts, it is the innocent civilians that suffer the most. Afghanistan continues to face a great amount of insecurity within its borders. Yet, despite the harsh conditions that are an everyday reality for civilians, the country continues to make additional health improvements. Here are seven health improvements in Afghanistan.

7 Health Improvements in Afghanistan

  1. Increased Health Facilities: Readily available health facilities initiated health improvements in Afghanistan, according to the Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank, Ghulam Dastagir Sayed. As of 2003, there were only 500 health facilities available for Afghan civilians. As of 2018, that number skyrocketed to 2,500 facilities. These facilities are located all over Afghanistan, but USAID makes it clear that low-income populations and rural areas are the most important to reach.
  2. The International Midwife Association: NGOs in Afghanistan have trained over 4,000 community midwives around the country and provided them with the necessary information to provide anti-natal care, postnatal care,  deliveries and immunization services to the people of Afghanistan. The NGO International Midwife Association has helped women in Afghanistan. Before it provided this help, many women did not have the necessary knowledge and help to have a safe pregnancy.
  3. Infant Mortality Rate: Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. However, from the year 2003 to 2015 the number of children dying before their 5th birthday has dropped by a total of 34 percent. This has lowered deaths from 137 per 1,000 births to 91 per 1,000 births. Health services and a better health care system in Afghanistan have caused these numbers to drop.
  4. Pregnant Women: Health care available to pregnant women in the country has also been among the health improvements in Afghanistan. From 2010 to the year 2018, health professionals have seen pregnant women at an increase of 3.5 percent each year. Additionally, women’s use of contraceptives and the number of births that professionals aided increased by 2 percent during the same eight years. The Afghani government has launched effective national health campaigns that have educated Afghani women and led them to seek out professional help during pregnancy. Women in the country are benefiting greatly through these increased health services. From the year 2003 to 2015, the number of women dying per 100,000 births has reduced by 64 percent. Similar to the improved child mortality rate above, a better health care system that reaches and educates Afghan women about their health has caused these improvements.
  5. The Afghanistan Development Association (ADA): NGOs are working to contribute to health improvements in Afghanistan. Seventy-two percent of the NGOs in the country are Afghan and are on the front lines providing medical treatment. One such NGO is the Afghanistan Development Association. ADA provides development and humanitarian aid to the country of Afghanistan.
  6. Drug Availability: Drug availability has risen in the country. It rose from 13.8 percent in the years from 2004 to 2010 and an additional 0.6 percent in the years 2011 to 2016. The government established the National Medicine and Health Products Regulatory Authority (NMHRA) that regulates medicines and other health products. This is one such program that is helping medicinal drug availability. Many Afghans have had to resort to smuggling medicinal drugs from neighboring countries or rely on traditional medicine. While Afghanistan has improved this problem, it can only continue its progress through programs like the NMHRA.
  7. Patient Counselling: Patient counseling is an important part of health care. From 2004 to 2010, patient counseling saw an increase of 6 percent annually followed by an additional 1.3 annually between the years 2011 and 2016. Patient counseling is important in the realm of family planning and child services.

While Afghanistan is still a country with many problems, one cannot deny that the progress it is making deserves celebration. The Afghan government partly made many of these improvements by actively engaging NGOs to tackle the health issues within its borders.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Honduras Life Expectancy
Honduras is a Central American country with a population of nearly 10 million people. Though the country has faced extreme poverty and disease, there have been significant signs of improvement in the country’s overall quality of life. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Honduras detail the improvements the country has made throughout its history.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Honduras

  1. Life expectancy is increasing. The life expectancy in Honduras has increased by almost a decade in the past 30 years. According to the 2019 Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Programme, the life expectancy at birth in 1990 was 66.7 years and rose to 75.1 years by 2018.
  2. Some of the top causes of premature death in Honduras are significantly lower than the average global comparison. The rate of deaths due to diarrheal diseases is 584.4 per 100,000, while the global average is more than 1,000. Similarly, the rate of deaths from stroke is less than 1,000 per 100,000, while the average is more than 1,800. Finally, the rate of deaths due to lower respiratory infections is 388.7 per 100,000, while the average is almost 2,000.
  3. The average years of schooling in Honduras has increased by more than three years since 1990. In 1990, the average years of schooling were only three and a half. In 2018, the average was more than six and a half. An increase in education often leads to higher-paying job opportunities, and therefore, access to better health care. Since 1957, the government of Honduras has had free primary school, which has led to a literacy rate of 83 percent.
  4. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Honduras has a low public investment in health per capita. The country currently ranks second in Central America and fourth in Latin America. The Latin American and Caribbean average is about $392 per person, while Honduras lies at about $101 per person.
  5. The mortality rates of both infants and children under 5 have both declined in the last 30 years. In 1990, the mortality rate in children under 5 was 53.4 per 1,000 live births. In 2017, the rate was just 14.6. For children under the age of 1, the mortality rate was 41.3 per 1,000 live births in 1990, which decreased to 11.6 in 2017.
  6. Some of the leading causes of premature death in Honduras include heart disease (41.6 percent), stroke (38.7 percent), violence (15 percent), road injury (16.4 percent), respiratory infections (2.5 percent) and other diseases. However, the World Bank approved the Country Partnership Framework for the country in 2015, which objectives include increasing access to finances, improving farming productivity and improving local governments to prevent violence and crime. The World Bank’s portfolio of the country is $259 million.
  7. The Honduras Social Security Institute (IHSS) has plans to expand its health facilities. The IHSS currently provides the public health system for about 37.1 percent of the working population. The institute currently has two public specialty hospitals and 10 outpatient facilities.
  8. In 2017, the World Bank reported that there were 0.314 physicians per 1,000 people in Honduras. Comparatively, Guatemala reported 0.355 physicians per 1,000 people.
  9. In 2015, the National Congress approved the Framework Law on Social Protection. This is the first time in Honduras that there was ever a law to define the national health care system. The multi-pillar law aims to extend health insurance, unemployment insurance and workmanship compensation to the working population, as well as Hondurans living in poverty.
  10. The Human Development Index (HDI), which measures the quality of life, health and wellbeing in Honduras, has increased from 0.508 to 0.623 from 1990 to 2018. To compare, Guatemala had a rating of 0.651, El Salvador a 0.667 rating and Haiti a 0.503 rating.

Although Honduras still needs to make progress in health care and safe water access, it has made a lot of improvements for its citizens in recent years. Honduras should be able to continue ensuring a long, healthy life for its citizens by continuing its improvements.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay