Three Times USAID Kept America Healthy
Pandemics have become a part of the 21st century reality. Not only do they take the world by surprise, but they are also frightening as they can destroy the global economy and life itself.

Epidemics arise throughout the world regularly. When an epidemic breeds in a country already struggling with basic health, economic and governance issues, the infection can spread across borders, growing into a pandemic. Global health crises are quite possible to arise in unstable countries.

Nancy Lindborg, a former USAID assistant administrator, noted that helping struggling nations in development is key to preventing pandemics. In the past, USAID kept America healthy in this regard. Here are three specific cases demonstrating its efforts.

3 Times USAID Kept America Healthy

  1. The HIV Epidemic: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the pathogen that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs). In 1985, there were only 20,000 AIDs cases reported. By the 1990s, this number grew to almost six million cases every year. The HIV epidemic impacted the world more than experts ever imagined.Since 1986, USAID has helped deter the HIV epidemic. It has been involved in surveilling, educating and preventing the disease. The USAID program IMPACT (Implementing AIDs Prevention and Care) spent $441 million between 1997 and 2008 and was able to extend its efforts to 75 countries, increasing prevention in a time when treatments were still limited.

    In 2003, President George W. Bush authorized $18 billion for the first five-year phase of PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief). In 2008, the second phase of PEPFAR began with a budget of $48 billion over five years. This helped fund the work of NGOs on prevention in at-risk and vulnerable communities, as well as creating programs to manage HIV throughout the world.

    While HIV can still be considered prevalent, the disease is well-understood and treatable. Around two million people were newly infected with HIV in 2015, compared to the almost six million annually at the height of the epidemic. Since 2010, HIV infections in children have dropped by 50 percent. Intense work and dedication on the HIV epidemic continue to slow the spread of the disease, which is one way that USAID kept America healthy.

  2. The Avian Flu Epidemic: The avian influenza virus (H5N1) was first diagnosed in Vietnam in 2003. Between 2003 and 2011, 119 people were infected and 59 died as a result. Worldwide, 325 of the 556 cases resulted in fatalities.USAID provided more than $40 million to Vietnam over six years to research the avian flu. This research has developed flu vaccines for birds, improved diagnostics and funded disease surveillance.

    Nyugen Tung, deputy director of Vietnam’s national diagnosis center, notes that USAID helped improve the country’s ability to fight new avian flu epidemics. USAID has helped more than 50 countries monitor avian flu infections, preventing their spread. The number of countries affected dropped from 53 to 10 between 2006 and 2014. Funding has reduced infection rates, another way in which USAID protected the U.S. from disease.

  3. The Ebola Epidemic: Between 2014 and 2016, 28,000 people were infected with Ebola and 11,000 died from the disease. The Ebola epidemic was a clear case in which weakened countries did not possess the ability to stop the disease from spreading. The three most impacted countries were Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which were all experiencing civil unrest, as well as weakened economies and health systems.In 2014, President Barack Obama authorized $1.98 billion for USAID to combat Ebola in those three countries. In Liberia, success was seen as USAID-funded eight new Ebola treatment units, 65 new burial teams (carefully tending to the dead is an important part in combating Ebola) and trained 500 healthcare workers per week. USAID also gave $190 million to improve stability in these countries so that future outbreaks could be prevented.

    In February 2014, USAID began the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). This endeavor prevents, detects and responds to disease outbreaks in order to prevent a global health crisis. While starting in the face of the Ebola epidemic, it works along with the Avian Influenza and Emerging Pandemic Threats program. This has improved laboratories, trained workers, identified disease and educated the general population all around the world. This expansive response is the third way in which USAID kept America healthy.

The USAID budget seems costly. The figures mentioned in this article total $68.65 billion over 30 years. Yet, the U.S. government granted the Defense Department $612 billion in 2016 alone. Defense and International Security comprise 18 percent of the national budget. Foreign aid only costs one percent of the national budget, and only a portion of that goes to USAID.

USAID kept America healthy in more than just the above circumstances. USAID’s funding and efforts have helped contain SARs, Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Marburg virus, Nipah virus and multiple flu outbreaks. USAID is an important part of U.S. security. It helps fight global poverty and strengthen countries, keeping them healthy and in turn keeping Americans safe.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Photo: Flickr


Conflicts in the Central African Republic have had devastating effects on the country’s civilians, particularly the civil war that began in 2012. The healthcare system has become less effective as qualified doctors and nurses move to safer areas, and aid is often denied due to unsafe commuting conditions. Along with a one-third decrease in qualified medical staff, clean water supplies are becoming scarce because water leaks cannot be easily repaired. Due to an unstable healthcare system and less access to clean water and food, many diseases are becoming more prominent among the Central African Republic’s population. Below are two of the top diseases in the Central African Republic that are causing some of the highest mortality rates for both children and adults.

Malaria

Malaria is not only one of the deadliest diseases in the Central African Republic but is the top fatal disease in the world. Malaria is responsible for more than eight percent of total deaths in the country and 32.8 percent of deaths in children under five years old. This number has dramatically risen in direct correlation to the increase in malnutrition. The Central African Republic civil war has detrimentally affected healthcare, making malaria more widespread but less treatable. The war has forced civilians out of their homes, leaving them without shelter and protection against mosquito bites, and resulting in the destruction of 70 percent of existing medical centers.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is combating malaria, and many of the top diseases in the Central African Republic, by bringing aid in the form of treatments and shelters, particularly, mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. The aim is to reach 80 percent of the Central African Republic’s civilians with aid in order to control the malaria problem. However, many locations are simply difficult to reach and the civil war only complicates this. MSF has designed mobile treatment facilities to treat a wider range of people.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a major problem in the Central African Republic and is ranked number nine on the world’s most fatal diseases list. This disease affects 15 percent of adults, most of whom are young women. Not only is the afflicted person severely affected by the disease, but many children have been orphaned by an infected parent or abandoned by their family for contracting HIV/AIDS. The Central African Republic has one of the highest rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the world.

The World Bank’s Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program has provided more than $18 million to African nations since 2001 to combat this disease. This has helped to supply medical centers with proper medicine, such as ARV, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In addition, World Bank aid has helped provide vaccines, educational services and mobile services to reach more isolated areas. This funding, however, is limited and not sufficient in reaching all patients in need of treatment. Many patients have also become resistant to the primary drug that is being used for treatment, and additional funding is needed to develop new and effective medicine.

Although these top diseases in the Central African Republic have had detrimental effects on its civilians, there are many forms of aid and organizations that are determined to decrease their crippling effects.

Miryam Wiggli

Photo: Flickr


The coastal African country of Ghana has emerged as a force in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS across the continent. Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and seeking to disrupt cultural forces that have historically kept infection rates high.

UNAIDS appointed Ghana as the chair for its Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) for the year, with Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu chairing both PCB meetings and Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing the June meeting. Ghanaian First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also been named as a Premier Ambassador for HIV Advocacy by the group.

“We will certainly work hard to justify the confidence reposed in us. We are committed to working closely with UNAIDS to achieve our collective goal of making our world AIDS-free by 2030,” Agyeman-Manu said on the UNAIDS official website.

Ghana is home to approximately 270,000 people currently living with HIV and has made great strides over recent years in addressing the epidemic. It reduced the number of HIV infections by 57 percent since 2000 and nearly doubled the amount of HIV testing women have received since 2008. The previous lack of screening for the disease is an assumed factor in higher infection rates, especially among adolescents.

UNAIDS deputy executive director Jan Beagle recently visited the country in anticipation of the announcement to meet with the government and citizens of Ghana. “As Chair, Ghana brings experience and energy to the Programme Coordinating Board. We are looking forward to Ghana’s leadership to drive forward the implementation of the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy and to help us make the end of AIDS a reality,” Beagle stated.

During her visit, Beagle attended a town hall-style meeting with Ghanaian women personally affected by HIV/AIDS. The rate of infections among women is particularly high in the country, almost double the rate of men, and infected women are stigmatized. Infected widows face even harsher conditions as they are often stripped of their belongings or homes due to local customs and laws.

UNAIDS is also working with women’s rights organization, the Mama Zimbi Foundation (MZF), and its Widows Alliance Network (WANE) network. This organizational collaboration is key to how Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We need to empower women, and make sure men are also fully part of the discussion– we need to work together for a better future,” MZF founder Akumaa Mama Zimbi appealed during the meeting. The MZF’s latest project seeks to create a permanent, stable facility to provide job training and health education for daughters of displaced widows.

Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by recognizing that the disease is not just a virus, but a complex health issue overlapping socioeconomic and cultural issues. The country’s efforts may be the best chance the world has at eliminating the disease by 2030.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr


Cote d’Ivoire was once a buzzing ivory trade hub, is currently the world’s largest exporter of cocoa and home to the largest basilica on earth. The country is filled to the brim with beach resorts, rainforests and French colonial influences. The Ivory Coast, as the country is commonly referred to in English, is neighbored by five other African countries and the Atlantic Ocean. Despite how rich this country’s chocolate may be, the consequences of their health issues are extremely grim. Here are two of the top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire:

Malaria

Malaria is a disease of the blood that can only be transferred by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria is a parasite, and once it is transferred, lodges in the liver and multiplies. Approximately two weeks later, the parasite moves to the bloodstream and infects red blood cells. If malaria is left untreated it can cause anemia, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria.

Symptoms include fever, headache, and vomiting and present themselves similar to the flu. If it is untreated, malaria may evolve into cerebral malaria. One this occurs, the capillaries carrying blood to the brain become blocked and can cause a coma, life-long learning disabilities and even death.

In 2012, the CDC determined that malaria is the third-highest cause of death in Cote d’Ivoire, claiming six percent of the total death toll. However, in 2015, malaria was the number one cause of death, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Malaria is preventable. The most affordable form of prevention is a mosquito net. Sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets not only provides protection, but the mosquitoes are killed on contact, preventing them from biting anyone who may not have their own net under which to sleep.

There is no vaccine for malaria, but in the event that the disease is contracted, there are early treatment anti-malaria drugs, called Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). If taken, they can effectively cure malaria; however, these drugs can be hard to get to remote areas.

HIV/AIDS

If left untreated, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV/AIDS is not only one of the top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire, but across the globe. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, and unlike other viruses, once it is contracted, it can never be completely eradicated from the body. HIV makes people more susceptible to infections and certain cancers.

AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, but not all people who have HIV advance to AIDS. AIDS affects the immune system so severely that a person becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections. An opportunistic infection is caused by pathogens, like a bacteria or a virus, which take advantage of an immune system that, if it was not compromised and weakened, would otherwise be able to fight it off.

HIV and AIDS can only be contracted through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but with medical assistance it can be treated and controlled.

Current HIV medication for those who test positive is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). If taken properly and regularly, it has been shown to drastically prolong life. HIV/AIDS transmission can be prevented through simple methods like using a new condom before sex, telling sexual partners if you test HIV positive, or using a clean needle.

According to the CDC, HIV/AIDS was the number one cause of death in Cote d’Ivoire in 2012, claiming 13 percent of the total death toll, but according to IHME, in 2015, it was the second leading cause of death, behind malaria.

These two top diseases in Cote d’Ivoire constantly shuffle top positions among the list of diseases ravaging the country, yet they are completely preventable. If the right methods are introduced and followed in Cote d’Ivoire, everyone can reduce their risk of contracting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr


Antimicrobial resistance has been steadily increasing over the years and is nearing crisis levels. Although much resistance is due to patients in nations like the United States demanding antibiotics for diseases like the cold that are often caused by viruses, antimicrobial resistance is also on the rise in developing nations. The priority of these drug-resistant superbugs was determined by a number of criteria including mortality, burden, the prevalence of resistance, the trend of resistance, transmissibility, treatability and preventability.

Because there are already concerted efforts to combat drug-resistant tuberculosis and malaria, they are not part of the dirty dozen list of drug-resistant superbugs. Here are a few of the priority pathogens that affect the developing world:

    1. CampylobacterCampylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. In developing countries, infections are seasonal. One of the major risk factors is exposure to contaminated drinking water.
    2. Salmonella – Salmonella is one of four major causes of diarrheal disease. Although most cases are mild, some can be life-threatening, especially in young children. Treatment with electrolyte replacement is usually sufficient, but for more vulnerable populations antibiotics may be warranted. With the rise in drug resistance, guidelines need to be reviewed regularly to ensure the most effective treatment remains first-line.
    3. Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that causes vaginal pain or discharge in women. It is often asymptomatic in men but can cause a burning sensation on urination and testicular pain. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications like infertility and sterility. In rare cases, the infection can become life-threatening if it invades the bloodstream or joints. With the rise of antimicrobial resistance, serious cases of gonorrhea could become more common.
    4. ShigellaShigella is the most common cause of dysentery or bloody diarrhea. Bloody diarrhea is often the result of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), one of the complications associated with shigella. HUS develops when the bacteria produces a red blood cell-destroying toxin. Like gonorrhea, a Shigella infection can become especially problematic if it spreads to the joints or bloodstream.

Also featured on WHO’s list were: acinetobacter, pseudomonas, enterobacteria, Enterococcus faecium, H. pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza. Without swift and effective intervention, the dirty dozen drug-resistant superbugs could devastate communities all over the world. In the words of the WHO director-general, “The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens have accelerated. The trends are clear and ominous. No action today means no cure tomorrow.”

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr


According to National Public Radio (NPR), health researchers have reported that the number of new cases of Zika infections in Puerto Rico has risen to over 34,000 since 2015. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that the virus peaked during the summer months of 2016, with more than 2,000 new cases being reported per week.

Because Zika is a relatively new epidemic, individuals living in Puerto Rico have not yet developed any immunity to the virus. Therefore, the transmission of the disease has been rampant.

In more recent months, the number of Zika infections in Puerto Rico has decreased to around 200 new cases per week. However, it continues to remain a serious problem within the region. Researchers from the CDC have confirmed that the number of Zika infections in Puerto Rico has far surpassed that of dengue virus infections. Dengue is another disease most commonly spread by mosquitoes.

The Zika virus is transmitted via the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Pregnant women who become infected are especially at risk of the disease.  Those infected are likely to pass on the infection to the fetus during pregnancy, which can lead to serious birth defects. Additionally, sexual relations and blood transfusions can spread the virus. Common symptoms of Zika virus include fever, rash, headaches, muscle pain and red eyes.

As of 2017, over 1,000 confirmed cases of reported Zika infections in Puerto Rico were among pregnant women. Doctors at the High-Risk Clinic at the University of Puerto Rico have treated some of these infected women. They witnessed at least 14 cases of babies born with severe brain damage.

Notwithstanding, some babies may not begin to show signs of defects or abnormalities until several years after birth. This calls for babies to be closely monitored by health professionals for up to four or five years after birth.

The CDC has listed different recommendations for preventing contraction of the disease. These recommendations are especially important because of the lack of a vaccine for the disease. Some of their recommendations include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when mosquitoes are around, ridding homes of any standing water and using insect repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. They especially advise against pregnant women traveling into Puerto Rico or any other areas where the virus is present.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr


Located in Southern Africa, Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries, with a solid economy built on diamonds and Safari-based tourism. However, the country continues to struggle with high rates of HIV/AIDS, as well as other preventable diseases. Here are the top three deadliest diseases in Botswana:

1. HIV

HIV is not only one of the deadliest diseases in Botswana, but it is also the number one cause of death, accounting for 32 percent of all deaths in the country. Despite the disease’s prevalence, the Ministry of Health’s national HIV program has helped efforts progress. Approximately 96 percent of people in need of HIV treatment in Botswana have received it. Increased prevention of mother-to-child transmission has reduced the transmission rate to less than four percent.

2. Malaria

While seven percent of deaths each year are due to malaria, Botswana has significantly reduced the disease’s burden. Government interventions, such as establishing rapid response teams and adequate healthcare facilities, has helped reduce incidences from 0.99 to 0.01 percent between 2000 and 2012. Botswana’s progress has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the country received the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) Award for its progress in reducing malaria.

3. Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is very common in Botswana, causing six percent of deaths each year. Part of what makes TB so dangerous is that it is a common opportunistic infection in people with HIV. In Botswana, 75 percent of patients with TB are HIV-positive. TB rates began rising in Botswana with the increase in HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, with rates from 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 620 per 100,000 in 2002. With the help of international partners, the government has launched numerous programs aimed at increasing testing, prevention and awareness of the link between HIV and TB.

Despite its steady economy and stable government, Botswana continues to suffer from high rates of preventable diseases. That said, the government has made significant progress in reducing this prevalence of these diseases and continues to dedicate important time and resources to prevention.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Dominica
Dominica is an eastern Caribbean nation with clusters of coastal communities and a sparsely populated volcanic interior. The top diseases in Dominica are chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), responsible for 52 percent of deaths. According to a survey taken in Dominica, from 2005 to 2009, the main causes of death were strokes, diabetes, and heart diseases. The survey also shows the number of deaths on the island due to CNCDs:

  • Strokes, coronary ischemia, heart disease and hypertension: 333 deaths
  • Diabetes mellitus: 228 deaths
  • Ischemic heart disease: 206 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of prostate: 176 deaths
  • Hypertensive diseases: 165 deaths
  • Acute respiratory infection: 137 deaths
  • Other forms of heart disease: 120 deaths
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 96 deaths
  • Heart failure: 84 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of digestive organs and peritoneum: 66 deaths

According to Pan American Health Organization director Carissa Etienne, Dominican health statistics are concerning. “For every three persons, one has high blood pressure. For every five persons in Dominica, one has diabetes. For every four persons in Dominica, one has high cholesterol. For every two people in Dominica, one is overweight or obese,” Etienne said.

Most diseases in Dominica are caused by preventable risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. These can be prevented with a change in lifestyle.

According to healthdata.org, in 2015, the highest cause of death in Dominica was from cardiovascular complications, at 55.8 percent. Chronic kidney disease resulted in the most combined death and disability, affecting more than 30 percent of people that year. The second-highest contributor was cerebrovascular disease, with more than 20 percent of people becoming disabled.

Furthermore, diabetes is becoming a prevalent disease in Dominica. From 2005 to 2015, diabetes affected 19.9 percent of the population. According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2015, there were 6,000 cases of diabetes. Pan American Health Organization representative for Barbados Godfrey Xuereb said the prevalence of diabetes in Dominica had risen from about five percent in 1980 to almost 15 percent in 2014.

The number of CNCDs is very high. However, Dominica has been holding conferences to address the situation. Doctors have brought this problem to light, and have been working on ways to help people stay aware of their health and to take care of themselves.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr


Among the various diseases in Nauru, the most serious and commonly transmitted in the country are dengue fever and typhoid fever.

Dengue Fever: Cause and Symptoms

According to WebMD, dengue fever is a disease that is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Unlike many other diseases in Nauru, dengue fever cannot be transmitted via person-to-person contact. Symptoms common to the disease include high fever, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash, nosebleeds, and bruising. If left untreated, it is potentially life-threatening.

Recently, dengue fever has been a rising epidemic in Nauru. Medical researchers have confirmed at least 70 cases of dengue fever within the country. While there has been a rapid increase in infections, Nauru is currently working with a limited amount of treatment supplies.

Nauruan government officials have met with officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Australian government, and hospital staff members of International Health and Medical Services, in order to develop an effective solution to the epidemic. However, due to limited medical resources, some infected patients have been evacuated to Australia for proper treatment.

Typhoid: Causes and Symptoms

Another common disease, typically transmitted through contaminated food and water in Nauru, is typhoid. Common symptoms of typhoid include high fever, headaches, stomach pains, loss of appetite, internal bleeding and in extreme cases, death.

The risk of infection is especially high in Nauru and the surrounding regions, so the Center for Disease Control (CDC) highly recommends that potential travelers get vaccinated before traveling into the country.

Travelers who reside with friends or relatives, visit small cities and eat “risky” foods face the highest risk of becoming infected with typhoid disease. The CDC recommends that travelers into the country be especially cautious of the kinds of food and drink that they consume, such as tap or well water, salads, unwashed raw fruit and food from street vendors.

One of the best ways to avoid contracting typhoid, as well as other diseases in Nauru, is to keep hands washed and well-sanitized. It is also best to avoid all physical contact with individuals who are infected with the disease.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr


The World Health Organization (WHO) Centre for Health Development, also known as WHO Kobe Centre (WKC), invited Japan-based research institutes to submit proposals designed to strengthen universal health coverage for aging populations and address the top diseases in Japan.

The proposals are expected to address one or a combination of issues, including the integration of community-based care systems, technological innovations, the need for human resources, and prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs are long-term diseases that are not caused by infectious agents and progress slowly, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Japan’s Top Non-Communicable Diseases

In 2015, the population of Japan reached 128.3 million and the nation had a death rate of 1,100 for every 100,000 people. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHEM), from 2005 to 2015, the top diseases in Japan were cerebrovascular disease, Ischemic heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Cerebrovascular disease is a generic term for a variety of health conditions, all of which directly limit or cease blood flow to the brain. From 2005 to 2015, fatal cases increased by 15.4 percent in Japan. Atherosclerosis is the most common form of cerebrovascular disease, developing from high cholesterol levels and inflammation in the carotid arteries. Cholesterol collects along the artery walls, forming a barrier of plaque and restricting blood flow. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Ischemic heart disease is caused by the reduction of blood supply to the heart. Between 2005 and 2015, deaths caused by Ischemic heart disease increased by 24.4 percent. Plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries, slowly decreasing blood flow. Blood flow restriction and plaque ruptures often lead to a heart attack. Risk factors for ischemic heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible and progresses through the brain slowly, eventually destroying the ability to complete the simplest tasks. From 2005 to 2015, Alzheimer’s had the largest increase in fatal cases at 56.2 percent. The cause of this diseases is not fully understood, however, there are common factors. Alzheimer’s disease typically affects elderly men and women, people with the ApoE-e4 gene, and in some cases, individuals with vascular conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

How Diet Affects These Diseases

Cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases are the top NDCs caused by dietary risks. A diet rich in antioxidants and grains is necessary to prevent these and other health-related diseases. Traditionally, Japanese food is relatively low in fat, but high in sodium. High levels of sodium directly affect the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. The nutritional value of a Japanese diet — primarily based on wheat, rice, fish, and soy — lacks vital nutrients found in nuts and whole grains.

High blood pressure contributes to many of the top diseases in Japan. Exercising daily and eating a healthy diet are vital to reducing high blood pressure. A variety of multigrain and whole-grain products, such as oats and bran, can help lower blood pressure. A diet plan known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), is based on the National Institute of Health (NIH) research to lower blood pressure without the use of medication. The DASH diet primarily focuses on eliminating sodium and dairy and increasing consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grains.

Advanced health and social services for aging populations are critical components to sustaining universal health coverage. The Japan Times reports that elderly people aged 65 or older make up 26.7 percent of the total population. This percentage is predicted to rise, altering the demographic structure of Japan and the need for medical care. The WKC’s primary objective is to create, “more sustainable and inclusive policies and programs for aging populations”, which is vital to achieving a complete understanding and potential cure for the top diseases in Japan.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr