Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan
Life expectancy in Kazakhstan has been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s. As the world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan is a Central Asian nation that extends into two continents and is abundant with natural resources. Along with Kazakhstan’s increased life expectancy, the country is in a period of economic growth – its economy expanded by 4.1 percent in 2018 due strong private consumption and a higher number of oil exports. Subsequently, poverty in Kazakhstan has fallen to 7.4 percent. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan

  1. As of July 2018, the population in Kazakhstan was 18.7 million making it the 63rd largest country in the world. With a life expectancy of 71.4 years at birth, women average 76.3 years for life expectancy compared to men at 66.2 years. There is a high mortality rate for men in the former Soviet Union regions due to alcoholism, alcohol-related incidents, diseases and suicide.
  2. The life expectancy rate in Kazakhstan is higher than in other Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan even has a higher life expectancy rate than Russia, which borders the nation to the North.
  3. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country by landmass with a population growth rate of 0.98 percent. The largest population clusters appear in the urban areas, both in the far northern and far southern parts of the nation. The interior region of Kazakhstan is mostly remote and uninhabitable.
  4. Rural areas tend to see slower development and infrastructure. While 99 percent of the urban drinking water sources have improved, only 85 percent of the rural population saw improvement. The 14.4 percent of unimproved drinking water sources in rural areas could be a factor in life expectancy rates due to various communicable diseases that thrive in poor hygienic conditions. Two prevalent diseases that affect Kazakh citizens – diarrhea and hepatitis A – are contracted easily from contaminated water.
  5. In less than two decades, Kazakhstan has transitioned from lower-middle-income to upper-middle-income status, according to The World Bank. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is relatively low, with only 4.3 percent of inhabitants living below the poverty line. This is lower than the majority of Kazakhstan’s Central Asia and Middle East neighbors.
  6. While life expectancy has increased and child and maternal mortality rates have decreased, the government struggles to provide and balance basic health care systems in Kazakhstan. Hospitals are the keystone in health care delivery, with in-patient care utilizing 45 percent of the public health budget. The number of general practitioners and primary-care physicians in Kazakhstan is relatively low. The long lines and lack of specialists may daunt Kazakh citizens when receiving basic health care services.
  7. Kazakhstan is a relatively youthful country with only 7.9 percent of the population being 65 years or older. The largest age structure in Kazakhstan is the 25-54 group that makes up 42.3 percent, making the median age in Kazakhstan 30.9 years. The median age in the United States is 38.2.
  8. Education and literacy can be a factor in life expectancy due to the lifelong economic benefits of an education. Ninety-nine percent of Kazakhstan is literate and the country offers free mandatory education up to the end of high school.
  9. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, are important to note when understanding the factors that influence life expectancy in Kazakhstan. A traditional Kazakh diet is heavily meat-based. There is an abundance of preserved foods due to the diets of the early Kazakh nomads, which include salted or dried meats, fermented dairy products and pickled vegetables. Fresh vegetables are often deficient in the Kazakh diet.
  10. Economic opportunities help citizens to live longer, happier and more fulfilling lives. The Youth Corps Program in Kazakhstan works to support vulnerable youth by developing community projects. For example, a soft-toy making club for disabled youth in the town of Kapchagai provides young people with disabilities the chance to learn new skills and generate a source of income.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress in social and economic reforms in the decades since its independence from the Soviet Union. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan show that the average life expectancy has improved through a reduction of poverty rates and an emphasis on education. Development in rural regions and improving universal health care are imperative to keep Kazakhstan’s life expectancy on the rise.

– Trey Ross
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece
The life expectancy age in Greece has been at a constant 0.22 percent increase since 2015. Out of all the countries in the world, Greece ranked at number 31 in 2019. The current average age of life expectancy is 81 years old. There are many factors that affect this average but the main one is poverty. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Greece and how it relates to poverty.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece

  1. The CIA World Factbook reported that the average living ages in 2017 were 83 for women and 71 for men. This coincides with the current average living age of 83 for women but men have increased by at least seven years since 2017.
  2. Socioeconomic status and class tend to directly correlate with poverty. The unemployment rate in Greece is currently 15.3 percent, which is much higher than the average unemployment rate. Unemployment can put Greeks in a lower class range, thereby forcing them into poverty. According to the IFA, as one’s status decreases so does one’s life expectancy.
  3. Access to good health care can affect life expectancy because if one has better access to health care, they could live longer. In Greece, public health care has been chronically underfunded and the country does not have an integrated health system making it harder for Greeks to receive proper assistance. Greece is trying to transition into a new health system to improve health care. These efforts include focussing on promotion and prevention in order to provide public health service at a regional level and district level.
  4. The Changemakers is an organization that started a competition called Destination: Change. New Solutions for Greece. It is meant to help find sustainable and systemic solutions for problems in Greek society. It looks at how to reduce issues like poverty which may affect the rate of life expectancy.
  5. In 2018, poverty rates increased by 6.7 percent in Greece and Eurostat data stated that more than 20 percent of Greeks have “severe material deprivation.” This means that there is an inability to afford items suited for a quality life among individuals and families in Greece.
  6. Help Age International is an organization that measures how elderly populations are doing in various countries. It conducted an annual study that shows how the elderly population in Greece have the poorest quality of life in Europe. Greece ranked 79th in quality of life compared to 96 other countries. Although Greece’s life expectancy is higher than the European average, more than 19.3 percent of its population is elderly. Understandably, health care and finances might impact the elderly’s life expectancy. Life expectancy is high but the quality of life among the elderly is not.
  7. Poverty rates in Greece are increasing and more Greeks are at risk of being in poverty. The financial crisis Greece encountered has caused a lot of this. Greece currently owes the European Union 290 billion euros. An article by Greek reporter Nick Kampouris stated that since 2018, “34 percent of Greeks are in danger of living in poverty.”
  8. The World Health Organization is trying to improve the quality of health care in order to improve life expectancy. It works in 150 different countries working to provide quality health care to those in need, and in turn, helps improve life expectancy. Greece has a representative who gives and collects data concerning its population.
  9. According to a report from the OECD in 2017, over the past 10 years, “Despite stalling in 2007, 2012 and 2015, life expectancy at birth is now over a year higher than it was a decade ago in Greece.” This is due to the fact that many Greeks reported being in good or very good health in the years following 2015.
  10. A BBC travel article published in 2017 stated that the Island of Ikaria has the highest life expectancy rate in Greece. Katerina Karnarou, a local of the Island of Ikaria, happens to be the oldest woman in Greece. People of this island often live longer with many citizens living past 90. Their diets and active lifestyles are what permits them to live so long and rank them as one of the top five locations with the highest life expectancy.

Poverty tends to have a huge impact on life expectancy in Greece. Poverty impacts socioeconomic status, health or living conditions, which all influence the longevity of each citizen. When more Greeks are falling towards the poverty line, they may find it challenging to access what is necessary to live a long, healthy life.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a nation wedged within Central Europe. Many consider its water quality as one of the highest in Europe and several NGOs are working towards bringing the nation’s economic and environmental sustainability up to par with the EU. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria

  1. Since 2000, life expectancy in Austria has increased by three years. Currently, the life expectancy average in Austria is 82-years-old which is more than the OECD average of 80-years-old. However, averages between women and men differ as the average for women is 84-years-old and the average for men is 79-years-old.
  2. Despite the World Health Organization’s guideline limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 air pollutants, Austria exceeds it by 6.3 micrograms. According to a 2017 WHO publication, the fact that Austrian residents often heat with wood and coal contribute to the nation’s pollution. As a result, affected Austrians experience respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Lower respiratory problems are the sixth highest cause of death in Austria.
  3. In order to improve the nation’s air quality, VCÖ-Mobilität mit Zukunft works to bring efficient mobility to the country. Founded in 1988, VCÖ develops projects with Austria’s decision-makers aimed at lowering emissions. Since its inception, VCÖ has produced publications arguing for climate-friendly transportation. Moreover, in 2018, VCÖ conducted a railroad test with 10,000 Austrians to exemplify that Austrian railroads need new offerings to improve the nation’s air quality.
  4. Adding to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria, about 92 percent of residents in Austria are satisfied with their water quality. In 1959, due to the nation’s high levels of wastewater, the Austrian federal government implemented the Austrian Water Act. The Act included initiatives that work to reduce wastewater. In order to achieve this mission, the Austrian government established monitoring programs to test the nation’s bodies of water for pollutants. As a result of running these tests and implementing wastewater purification plants and a larger sewage system, Austria reduced its waste-water and improved the nation’s water quality.
  5. When it comes to security, the majority of Austrians feel safe in their country. Around 81 percent of Austrians say they feel safe at night. Austria’s homicide rate of 0.5 ranks as one of the lowest rates in the OECD.
  6. A recent report from WHO states that the leading causes of death in Austria are cardiovascular disease and cancer. Diabetes and dementia rates have also increased and worked their way up into the top 10 causes of death. Despite the rise in various diseases, however, around 70 percent of Austrians believe the are in good health.
  7. Around 99.9 percent of Austrians receive health-care coverage. In 2012, the Federal government covered 29 percent of Austrians’ health expenditures while health insurance funds covered 44.8 percent. Given that the majority of Austrians’ have covered health care, Austrians have a strong access to health care that contributes to their health and life expectancy.
  8. Following a 2009 GDP fall, Austria’s household capacity plateaued while basic living costs increased. As a result, Austria’s impoverished population increased through 2015. Due to a lack of resources, impoverished Austrians are less likely to afford health care, and therefore, are at risk for poor health. In order to find solutions for impoverished Austrians, Austria ASAP launched in 2013 and worked toward enhancing academics’ impact on poverty. Since its inception, Austria ASAP has released publications debunking social presumptions about Austrians living in poverty.
  9. In comparison to other European countries, Austria’s public spending on health is low. In 2015, Germany and Sweden spent between 18 and 21 percent of total government spending on health care. Meanwhile, Austria only utilized 15.1 percent of its total government spending. Given the public spending is lower in Austria than in other nations, Austrians experience less financial security and are at a higher risk of impoverishment due to health care costs.
  10. Amongst the countries in the EU, Austria is below average in resource productivity. Austria produces EUR 1.79 per kilogram in comparison to the EU average of EUR 2.04 per kilogram. Therefore, in March 2018, several NGOs launched the Circular Futures Platform to transition Austria into a circular economy. The Circular Economy Action Plan mission intends to eventually put an end to lower residual waste and reduce the toxins polluting the environment and attributing to 3,000-4,000 Austrian deaths every year.

Through an analysis of increasing life expectancy and high health insurance coverage, these 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria demonstrate why the nation ranks high on the Better Life Index. With increased efforts to improve the economy and air quality, Austria can become a model nation for the world.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

 

World Changing Celebrities
People often recognize celebrities for their music and performances but there are a variety of stars that use their fame as a platform to support charities, create foundations and change the world. Below are five world changing celebrities that are actively using their voice to fight global poverty.

Leonardo DiCaprio Protects Indigenous Rights

Along with spreading awareness and educating followers about climate change on his Instagram page, DiCaprio created the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation which focusses on protecting all of Earth’s inhabitants. It has recently partnered with Earth Alliance to address and take steps to find solutions to major threats to the planet’s life support systems.

One of his most notable works is the protection of indigenous rights. Dicaprio’s Foundation helps fund programs focused on and led by indigenous people. It helps indigenous people defend their rights, create renewable energy sources, develop sustainable livelihoods and increase the political impact of advocacy efforts. As of 2015, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation accumulated $15 million in grants to fund innovative organizations and environmental projects focused on preserving and protecting the planet.

Christy Turlington Assists with Childbirth Safety in Haiti and Uganda

Because of her personal experience with complications in childbirth, Turlington is using her voice to advocate the importance of making childbirth safe for every woman. In 2010, she worked on “No Woman, No Cry,” a documentary that told the stories of pregnant women in four different countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. She expressed the need for lifesaving medical care for women giving birth in case of the occurrence of complications.

She also founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, an organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of mothers all over the world. As of now, her organization has partners in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S., and has impacted more than 600,000 lives.

Matt Damon Gives Access to Safe Water

Another of the world changing celebrities is Matt Damon, who is the co-founder of Water.org, an organization focused on providing families with safe water and sanitation. The foundation hopes that less time spent searching for water will allow children to go to school and get an education, improve health and help the economy. Damon’s foundation expresses the importance of access to affordable financing through WaterCredit. WaterCredit is a pay-it-forward system that makes it possible for household water and toilet solutions by bringing repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing. In total, Damon’s foundation has benefited more than 20 million people across 12 different countries.

The Lewis Family Improves Access to Health Care

In the 1980s, Ryan Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion from pregnancy complications. She lived through her prognosis and decided to create the 30/30 project. The 30/30 project’s main focus is to improve access to comprehensive health care by building multiple medical facilities worldwide. The project has placed a total of 30 medical facilities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Togo, India, the U.S., Rwanda, Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

The organization places medical facilities based on the needs of the area. For example, the Mbita Clinic in Kenya intends to prevent and treat major diseases, which include HIV, TB, malaria, water­borne illnesses and respiratory and heart ailments. The Mbita Clinic reduces waiting cues, prioritizes critical care needs, improves conditions for the staff and allows for service expansion due to the district’s high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. In total, the medical facilities have had 215,963 patient visits.

Bono Fights to End Extreme Poverty

In 2004, Bono co-founded the ONE organization. ONE’s goal is to end extreme poverty and preventable illnesses and diseases by 2030. ONE is a nonprofit organization with diverse groups of people. These groups come together and take action to organize, mobilize, educate and advocate for gender equality, youth employment, quality education and equal access to health services. ONE has secured over $30 billion in funding for historic health initiatives. It also helped pass the Electrify Africa Act of 2016, a U.S. legislation on energy poverty.

From actors to musicians, these five world changing celebrities put their public reputations to use by showing everyone that their voices matter and are an important key to make a difference and change the world.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is located in central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan bordering. Though the smallest in land size, Tajikistan does have a higher elevation average with a more mountainous landscape which should place it at a disadvantage with the spread of health care. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan

  1. According to data from the United Nations, Tajikistan ranks 134th in life expectancy for both sexes and second in relation to its neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Tajikistan follows the global trend of rising and currently has a male life expectancy of 68.6 placing it at rank 126 for male life expectancy. Tajikistan has a female life expectancy of 73.1 years placing it at 134th for female life expectancy.

  2. During the past 60 years, the only time life expectancy in Tajikistan has dropped was during its five-year civil war through May 1992 and June 1997. The civil war resulted in between 65,000 and 150,000 deaths, which accounted for about 1 percent of Tajikistan’s population at the time. Additionally, severe food shortages, as well as refugees and internally displaced people negatively affected Tajikistan’s standard of living.

  3. Since 2005, Tajikistan’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 95/100,000 to 32/100,000 in 2008. Afterward, the rate decreased to 25.2/100,000 in 2016. Throughout this time USAID and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFP) were working with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen its health care programs through improved health care education and financial support. This support came through the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Project which focused on improving health, nutrition and hygiene for the women and children at the community level, as well as the UNFP training of doctors and midwives on effective perinatal care.

  4. Tajikistan has 170 physicians and 444 nurses per 100,000, which is comparatively less than the EU average of 347 and 850, respectively. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) is currently working to help improve the condition of health care education by promoting medical education. Currently its efforts are supporting roughly 900 undergraduate medical students, several hundred nurses and over 100 postgraduate residents per year.

  5. Since 2009, USAID has helped to create or fix 76 water systems allowing 242,000 or more people to access safe drinking water. Tajikistan also has an estimated 354,000 cubic meters per year, which is four times the average water flow than the entire region of Central Asia. This is important as roughly 3.7 percent of deaths are related to water-borne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.

  6. Non-governmental organizations are working to fill the gaps in their health care systems relating to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These gaps exist due to Tajikistan’s limited manpower and financial resources.

  7. At 99.8 percent Tajikistan has a high literacy rate compared to countries of similar economic standing. The high literacy rate should help facilitate the spread of health care information.

  8. Since 1994, Tajikistan has had legislation to protect patient rights and give patient choice, complaint and reimbursement procedures. Tajikistan’s constitution even includes this legislation in Article 38 which promises that each person has the right to basic health care and any other sort that future laws deem necessary.

  9.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan ties for the 76th rank in road fatalities at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.K. has 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people related to road fatalities. Though road safety contributes to a large number of deaths in Tajikistan, the road affects access to health care as well. As mentioned previously, the mountainous landscape proves to be a major obstacle in improving access to health care.

  10. The 10th fact about life expectancy in Tajikistan is that even though these problems and solutions are occurring, 45 percent of women from the ages 15 to 49 agree that the largest issue is getting the necessary money to afford health care treatment.

Life expectancy in Tajikistan is steadily improving with help from NGOs and further promoted health care education. While proper laws are in place to allow the population to seek out proper/adequate health care, financial limits burden those in poorer parts of the country and force them to seek the cheapest alternative.

With data being collected on Tajikistan’s health care system, an interest in increasing clean water access and an ample desire to better its system, Tajikistan is on the road to progress. There are several ways to contribute to helping improve the life expectancy in Tajikistan through supporting NGO’s efforts to provide children and families with clothes, food and shelter and to improve education standards and accessibility.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: World Bank

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Iran
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has prioritized the need to improve Iran’s health care system. Indeed, Article 29 of the IRI’s Constitution establishes every Iranian citizen’s right to high-quality health. The Ministry of Health and Medical Education is responsible for providing the health care necessary to achieve this goal. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran and the state of the country’s health care system.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iran

  1. Starting in the early 1980s, Iran successfully launched a reformed primary health care system or PHC. Because of Iran’s PHC programs, life expectancy in Iran has steadily risen from 55.7 years in 1976 to 75.5 years in 2015. Since the implementation of the PHC system, Iran has also experienced increased economic growth and literacy, and an improvement in safe water access and sanitation. The Community of Health Workers suggests that all of this may have contributed to Iran’s increased life expectancy.

  2. The aim of PHC was to provide all Iranians with health care by 2000. Especially in the beginning, PHC prioritized reducing health inequality between urban and rural populations by focusing attention on and resources to rural areas. Central to PHC was the establishment of health houses in rural areas. Behvarzes, local community members who had personal ties and commitments to the community, would run these houses.

  3. As of 2009, more than 90 percent of Iranians have some type of health insurance according to data cited by the Japan Medical Association Journal. Both the public and private sectors play a pivotal role in Iran’s health care system, which is a nation-wide network that includes local primary care centers in Iran’s provinces, secondary care hospitals in the provincial capitals and tertiary hospitals located in big cities. The public sector provides most of the primary care and some of the secondary and tertiary health services. Some public services, like prenatal care and vaccinations, are free. The private sector focuses on secondary and tertiary services. Additionally, NGOs play an active role in Iran’s health system, specifically concerning issues like children with cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and thalassemia.

  4. In addition to higher life expectancy, Iran has seen better health outcomes on several fronts. For one, the incidences of malaria-related deaths have decreased significantly from 15,378 cases in 2002 to 777 cases in 2015; 28 of these cases resulted in death. The reduction in malaria-related deaths is the result of interventions, such as the introduction of tap water and electricity into villages.

  5. To completely eradicate malaria, health officials should concentrate resources to prevent and treat the disease in the specific provinces where the disease is most prevalent. Policymakers should monitor borders to prevent the spread of malaria into Iran from outside the country. They should strengthen cooperation between institutions and improve the health systems’ ability to quickly identify epidemics.

  6. Between 1995 and 2011, Iran’s neonatal (NMR), infant (IMR) and under-5-year (U5MR) mortality rates in rural parts of the country decreased substantially. In particular, Iran’s NMR and IMR saw a statistically-significant decline as a result of a family physician program and rural insurance program. Implemented in 2005, Iran intended these programs to reform PHC, which did not cover access to specialists or private-sector physicians for rural populations. The family physician program and rural insurance program provided preventive and outpatient care to rural communities and made health care access more equitable between urban and rural areas. By providing greater access to important health services, these reforms improved many health indicators, such as child mortality. From 1995 to 2011, Iran’s NMR dropped from 17.84 to 10.56; the IMR decreased from 31.95 to 15.31; and Iran’s U5MR declined from 40.17  to 18.67.

  7. One of Iran’s significant health achievements is a dramatic increase in child immunization; indeed, providing vaccinations was one of the main activities of the community health workers under PHC. From 1990 to 2006, the percentage of one-year-olds immunized with three doses of DPT rose from 91 to 99 percent. Over that same period, one-year-olds immunized with three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine increased from 62 to 99 percent; similarly, one-year-olds immunized with MCV rose from 85 to 99 percent. This increase in immunization among children correlates with a sharp decline in Iran’s infant mortality rate.

  8. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of mortality in Iran and connect to more than 45 percent of deaths. The second most common cause of death in Iran is accidents at 18 percent. Cancer follows at 14 percent and then neonatal and respiratory diseases, each of which accounts for about 6 percent of deaths in the country. Many NGOs, like the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), are cooperating with the Iranian Ministry of Health to combat these frequent causes of mortality. For instance, at the beginning of 2019, the country launched a national campaign to fight cancer. This campaign seeks to bring hope to cancer patients and to raise awareness about the fact that cancer is treatable and often preventable. Officials note that behavioral and dietary risks can cause cancer.

  9. While Iran’s health care system has improved significantly, it still has room for growth. For instance, greater than half of the under-5 deaths in Iran are the result of preventable or easily-treatable diseases and illnesses, such as malnutrition, which affects some 45 percent of children under the 5-years-old in Iran. One NGO that is helping food-insecure refugees in Iran is the World Food Programme (WFP), which has had a presence in Iran since 1987. In January 2018, WFP implemented the Iran Country Strategic Plan (2018-2020), which provides a combination of cash and monthly distributions of wheat flour to refugees in need, especially the most vulnerable women-headed households. In January 2019 alone, WFP helped 29,736 people in Iran.

  10. Another NGO providing health services to Iranians in need is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which translates to Doctors Without Borders. MSF provides marginalized groups in south Tehran, such as drug users, sex workers, street children and the ghorbat ethnic minority, with free health care. MSF runs a clinic in the Darvazeh Ghar district, where they provide services including medical and mental health consultations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, ante- and postnatal care and family planning. In 2018, MSF provided 29,900 outpatient consultations.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran show, the health of the Iranian people and health care system of Iran have improved significantly in the past few decades, due largely to the reforms of PHC and the family physician program and rural insurance program. If the Iranian government continues its investment in these programs, there is a good reason to believe life expectancy in Iran will continue to rise in the coming years.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Kosovo
Kosovo is a newly and controversially independent Baltic state with its fair share of hardships. After only recently deescalating its conflict with Serbia, the war-torn country must continue to find how to establish itself in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo highlight Kosovo’s unstable internal conditions as well as the efforts that the country is putting forth to improve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kosovo

  1. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Kosovo was 68 years. It has steadily improved since then with the average life expectancy in Kosovo now being 72 years according to the World Bank. Improvements in many sectors, such as increased health care accessibility, education reforms and de-escalation of the conflict in the region may be a cause of this. Compared to the average life expectancy of the European Union (E.U.) nations (81 years), Kosovo has a long way to go. However, many project the yearly improvement over the past two decades to continue.
  2. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, in 2017, 18 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. High poverty levels likely stem from a prevalence of unemployment (31 percent in 2017) as well as exceedingly low wages (500 euros monthly). This makes Kosovo the third poorest country in Europe. However, increased foreign investment and urban development have caused major improvements from figures just five years prior that show the poverty level at 23.5 percent, reflected by a higher unemployment rate of 35 percent.

  3. There is a vast disparity in health care access between minority populations and the general populous of Kosovo. Children living in rural areas are less likely to have access to good health care, and this is even worse for ethnic minorities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 60 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent live in extreme poverty (compared to the average statistics of 48.6 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively). A statistic that reflects this disparity is the infant mortality rate (IMR). The average IMR for the whole of Kosovo is 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. When looking at the IMR for minorities, that number jumps to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

  4. Kosovo has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.129 billion and spends 1.1 percent of it on health and social work, as well as 0.9 percent on public administration. While the amount the country spends on public health services is very low, Kosovars have seen improvements in basic health. The government has recently subsidized health care accessibility programs such as the Law on Health Insurance (2014) and the National Health Sector Strategy (2017-2021). The former gave all Kosovo citizens the right and obligation to have a basic, mandatory health insurance package that covers emergencies, pregnancies and childbirth and other health care essentials. The latter is a strategy the Ministry of Health adopted that focuses on better management of health care funds as well as improving the accessibility of basic health care to minorities and other marginalized communities. Ultimately, however, the outcomes of the new policies have been difficult to measure due to lacking administrative records and unclear implementation policies.

  5. The leading causes of death in Kosovo are circulatory system diseases, making up 62.7 percent of all deaths in 2015. Other prevalent causes of death are tumor diseases (14.7 percent) and respiratory diseases (5.4 percent). Kosovo also has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these diseases are due to the overwhelming amount of tobacco products consumed in Southeastern European countries, causing 80-90 percent of all lung cancer cases and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis.

  6. Starting in 1998, Serbia cast out over 800,000 people from Kosovo during the Kosovo Conflict. Thousands of people still live in refugee camps since they have no way to reclaim their homes. Other organizations or individuals have bought the properties, and Kosovo courts make it very difficult to evict the illegal tenants and allow refugees to return to their homes. However, efforts from UN Habitat, a branch of the United Nations that deals with sustainable human settlements and shelters, have recently pushed for reform in Kosovo’s court system to more adequately handle the illegal seizures of property. The Kosovo Municipal Spatial Planning Support Programme, which UN Habitat developed, has built capacities for sustainable and affordable development of urban areas and has established institutions like the Housing and Property Directorate and the Kosovo Cadastre Agency.

  7. The homicide rate in Kosovo is measured at about 2.1 intentional homicides per every 100,000 people in 2016. This is impressively low, considering the global average is 6.2 homicides per 100,000 people and the U.S. average is 4.9 per 100,000.

  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at three categories for fifteen-year-old students: math, reading and sciences. The test thereby evaluates teaching methods and education infrastructure and shows the government whether the improvement is necessary or not. In 2015, the PISA ranked Kosovo as one of the last three countries in all of the evaluated categories. The ranking is devastating, yet the Minister of Education Arsim Bajrami embraced the results with a promise of improvement. He stated, “[The decision to participate in the PISA] was a courageous act as well as a commitment to increase the quality of education in our country.” Since then, with the help of foreign aid, the government has worked to improve the technical training of teachers and the ability of Kosovo’s youngest generation to be financially viable.

  9. Kosovo air quality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. In December 2018, Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina had an air quality measured as hazardous. Increased investment in coal and biofuel power plants have caused a sharp increase in air pollution. The Balkan Green Foundation and the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) launched campaigns to raise awareness on the effects of excessive air pollution caused by fossil fuel. They have been pushing for transparency with energy expenditure and power plant output, but the government has been less than receptive. However, the green movement in Kosovo has gained traction very quickly within the past six months. There are now large pushes for the Kosovo government to be more accurate with air pollution reports as well as transportation reform to ensure car emissions are not unnecessarily high.

  10. The people of Kosovo consider corruption to be the most important problem facing them, after unemployment, according to the UNODC Corruption Report on Kosovo. Systemic bribery is endangering Kosovars by obstructing their access to law enforcement as well as health care. Thirty percent of all bribes went to police officers to overlook petty crimes, 26 percent went to nurses and a massive 42 percent of bribes went to doctors to either expedite or receive better treatment. The U.K.’s ambassador to Kosovo Ruairi O’Connell has pushed very strongly for a crackdown on governmental and private corruption, “The moment has come to remove officials whose integrity is contested. Politicians should not meddle in the work of police, courts, and prosecutor’s office.”As of yet, corruption continues to be widespread, and public opinion as well as the justice ministers in the Kosovo government call for immediate reform.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo reflect that the condition is gloomy, but improving. Corruption is still endemic and ethnic disparities are prevalent, but outside influencers, like the U.N. and non-governmental organizations like INDEP are helping the government improve. If the government carries out infrastructure, education and health care developments successfully, the country would see improvements across the board and become a more competitive piece of the world with a much higher life expectancy.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
Following the national election in May 2019, Cyril Ramaphosa, a member of the African National Congress (ANC), started his first full term as President of South Africa. Born in a township outside of Johannesburg, Ramaphosa fought in the South African liberation struggle and negotiated on behalf of the ANC to bring an end to the segregationist regime. He was a member of the international Mandela Reception Committee and held the microphone in 1990 as Nelson Mandela gave his first public speech after 27 years in prison. Ramaphosa initially assumed the presidency after former president Jacob Zuma resigned in February 2018 following a large corruption scandal.

In the general election, Ramaphosa’s party, the ANC, won 58 percent of the vote, granting him the presidency for the next five years. The ANC won with less than 60 percent of the electorate in the May election, which was the first time since South Africa emerged as a free democratic state in 1994. This suggests a significant loss of influence for the party, which has been in power since the fall of apartheid because of its association with Mandela and other freedom fighters.

During his campaign earlier in 2019, Ramaphosa made many promises to the South African people; he vowed to end government corruption and state-capture, improve education and health care, achieve economic stability and drastically reduce poverty in South Africa. Many believe that the future of the ANC, which has been steadily losing support in recent years, depends on Ramaphosa’s ability to deliver on these promises. Here are his plans below.

Unemployment

“Let us declare our shared determination that we shall end poverty in South Africa within a generation.” Ramaphosa made this declaration in his inauguration speech to a country where 40 percent of the population falls beneath the poverty line and unemployment has increased to 27.6 percent.

In June 2019, Ramaphosa vowed to create two million jobs over the next five years through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), the Youth Employment Service (YES) and the National Youth Service (NYSP). He also plans to work with private sector investors on special projects that will create 115,000 jobs in the coming years.

Crime

Ramaphosa recognizes the concerns of residents over crime and has promised to cut violent crime rates in half by 2029. To spearhead this effort, he plans to create a national campaign to increase enrollment in police academies, thereby increasing law enforcement in communities around the country. He also pledged to strengthen investigative and prosecutorial processes through improved training. Reducing violence would help relieve poverty in South Africa by ensuring the safety and mental well-being of struggling communities.

Gender-based violence and sexual assault have been widespread in South Africa in the past several years. To combat this issue, Ramaphosa wants to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to support survivors and deal with these cases more responsibly.

Health Care

Sickness, disease and injury can exacerbate poverty and deteriorate the quality of life if not treated properly. Health care is one of the universal rights that the South African Constitution outlines, which states, “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care…” Ramaphosa has promised to improve existing health care and cover all South Africans under a new state health insurance plan. On August 8, 2019, the South African Department of Health published a new National Health Insurance Bill which will cover all residents, including services for refugees, inmates and certain foreigners. The bill will cover all necessary health care services (including reproductive care) free of charge to all South Africans. The country will implement it in a multi-phase approach over the next several years, beginning in September 2019. Ramaphosa plans to use tax increases to pay for part or all of the program. Additionally, the government will promote the employment of health care professionals in rural areas, which are disproportionately underserved in terms of health care quality and access due to the historical legacies of apartheid.

Education

The public education system in South Africa is notoriously poor. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the country 126th out of 138 in the 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Report. Ramaphosa plans to fix the country’s schools by implementing a nationwide reading campaign and improving teacher training. He also supports efforts to diversify curriculums by including topics like coding and data analytics in primary school classes. Long before his presidency, Ramaphosa established a charity for South African students, the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET), which supports gifted but disadvantaged students in their efforts to attend university.

Corruption

Political corruption has long been a problem in South Africa; government officials routinely siphon money away from South Africa’s many social welfare and public improvement programs to enrich themselves and the corporations they connect with. The party with the most officials accused of stealing public funds for personal use is the ANC, which has remained in power despite scandals. The corruption has even led to the assassination of whistleblowers who have accused ANC officials of pocketing public funds. Former President Jacob Zuma had to resign in 2018 after intense corruption allegations that he had stolen government money and granted profitable government contracts to preferred corporations and friends.

President Ramaphosa has acknowledged that his party is currently under great scrutiny due to its previous transgressions. In June 2019, he vowed to redistribute more than $979 million recovered from successfully prosecuted corruption scandals, directing the funds toward services and infrastructure in poor communities. He also made a public commitment to strengthen the reach and influence of government watchdog agencies like the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Special Investigative Unit (SIU), the South African Revenue Service and State Security. Ramaphosa recently met with the national director of public prosecutions to create a plan to increase the capacity of the NPA to investigate public officials and seize assets of corruption proceedings.

–  Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Dominican Republic
Although the Dominican Republic has been one of the fastest-growing economies since the year 2000, it still struggles with income inequality and a high poverty rate of 30 percent as of 2016. Diversification in the past three decades is strengthening the economy and improving tourism and infrastructure. Despite this, the poverty rate remains fairly high. The following describes five ways to reduce poverty in the Dominican Republic and bring income equality to Dominicans.

5 Ways to Reduce Poverty in the Dominican Republic

  1. Government Transparency: Transparency International ranks the Dominican Republic 129 out of 180 countries based on public sector corruption. The ranking demonstrates a failure to control corruption. A lack of transparency dissuades external and internal investors from investment. Under-the-table bribery creates an economy that thrives on bribery instead of honest, hard-working individuals. Active enforcement of laws and corruption-reducing policies could help draw investors to the developing economy and spur faster future growth. In an effort to reduce corruption, the Dominican Republic’s President, Danilo Medina, updated its Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act in 2017 to include the definition of money laundering to crimes including copyright, tax evasion and avoidance and counterfeiting.
  2. Infrastructure Development: Once an agriculture-based economy, the Dominican Republic has transitioned into a diversified economy. Mining, trade, tourism, manufacturing, telecommunications, finance and services make up more than 90 percent of the country’s GDP. The remaining 10 percent is in agriculture. Although the Dominican Republic has made progress in infrastructure, frequent hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea destroy many roads, bridges and docks. The country especially overlooks damage in rural areas, where there is a prominence of poverty. To reduce poverty in the Dominican Republic, investment in repairing areas, such as farmland that hurricanes destroyed, can help alleviate issues and provide easy access to markets. More than 98 percent of the country has access to electricity, yet the reliability is questionable. Frequent outages in rural and urban areas are common. The government owns and operates electricity, and the unreliability is a constant complaint from Dominicans. A more reliable, widespread and affordable electrical grid would open the country to faster development, and a side effect would be additional jobs in the privatized electric companies.
  3. Education Inequality: Inequality is a major issue in the Dominican Republic. Insufficient income reduces the probability of receiving an education and health care. It also happens to be one reason for high illiteracy rates amongst the poor. About 26 percent of the poorest Dominicans are literate. A lack of education is a huge barrier to rising out of poverty. Adding programs to help enable universal access to education can help the poor and, as a result, grant skills and expertise to help the Dominican economy grow.
  4. Health: Another way to reduce poverty in the Dominican Republic is to improve the health care industry. The Ministry of Public Health and Public Welfare administer public services. In 2007, 36 percent had to pay the entirety for public service that is supposed to be free but is not exactly. Only 12 percent of Dominicans report that all or part of the service qualifies for coverage. Cost of public health care is especially a barrier to women, the elderly and the poor. Reducing costs could help reduce the 30 percent poverty rate.
  5. Utilizing Competitive Advantages: Top exports include gold, tobacco, knit t-shirts, low-voltage protection equipment and medical instruments. Competition in the marketplace can increase productivity, a major issue in low-income economies. Utilizing competitive advantages enables the country to produce products for less money and sell them in the current country at a reasonable cost. Poor households would pay less for the products made in the Dominican Republic and therefore would help reduce poverty.

A negative trade balance of $8 billion expresses a need to create and export more products in order to improve the business climate and reduce costs to Dominican consumers. Active humanitarian involvement and utilization of its competitive advantages could help boost growth and bring Dominicans out of poverty.

Efforts to reduce poverty in the Dominican Republic are making great strides. President Medina is combating government corruption and the economy is diversifying. Additionally, improving infrastructure and adding jobs, as well as access to education and health care will aid the Dominican Republic in poverty reduction and economic well being.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr