Causes of Poverty in SwedenSweden is a nation in northern Europe that is home to about 10 million people. One of Sweden’s defining characteristics is its neutrality. Formerly a military power, it has been more than 200 years since Sweden has gone to war. This is not the nation’s only impressive accomplishment. Sweden’s other notable claim to fame is its robust economy. Overall, the economy is very strong, and measures have been enacted to reduce and alleviate the causes of poverty in Sweden.

Some statistics about Sweden’s economy:
• In 2016, the nation’s GDP was $511 billion
• The nation’s unemployment rate is about 6 percent

One strength that enables Sweden’s economy to achieve as much as it does is how easy the nation makes doing business. In fact, Forbes rated Sweden as the best country in the world for business in 2017. By comparison, the U.S., an undeniable economic power, is ranked 23rd. Some of the factors that Forbes took into consideration were innovation, taxes, technology, levels of bureaucracy and stock market performance.

Another factor that allows for Sweden’s economic success is its interest in defending and promoting gender equality. In 2016, the World Economic Forum created its Global Gender Gap Index and showed the progress that Sweden has made in this area. According to the index, Sweden trails just three nations, Iceland, Finland and Norway, in terms of gender equality. While economic gain may not be the first thing you think of when you improved gender equality, it really is the case. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) believes in a very simple cause and effect relationship: “If the EU stepped up its efforts to improve gender equality, more jobs would be created, GDP per capita would increase and society would be able to adjust better to the challenges related to the ageing population.”

These and other actions have limited the causes of poverty in Sweden and ensure a good quality of life for its citizens.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Pixabay

Common Diseases in SwedenSweden is a Scandinavian country located in Northern Europe between Finland and Norway. The country has a population of 9.903 million people. Like any country, there are common diseases in Sweden that affect the population.

1. Cardiovascular Diseases

Ischemic heart disease is the most common form of heart disease in Sweden. The annual mortality rate from the diseases is 241.1 deaths per 100,000 people. A major contributor to ischemic heart diseases and other cardiovascular diseases is diabetes. About 6.9 percent of the population has diabetes. If current rates continue, 10.3 percent of Swedes will have diabetes by 2050. Major risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, poor eating habits and unhealthy weight. An estimated 31.1 percent of Swedes are physically inactive. Additionally, 59.2 percent are overweight and 22 percent are obese.

2. Respiratory Diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common form of respiratory disease and frequently undiagnosed. About 500,000 people in Sweden have the disease. Every year, about 3,000 people die from COPD. Age is a contributor to the disease as well as smoking. Despite a COPD diagnosis, many people continue to smoke until death. Studies have found that of those who die from COPD, 40 percent of women and 33 percent of men are still smokers.

3. Neoplasms

In 2011, the most common cancer sites in men were prostate (32.2 percent), skin excluding melanoma (10.8 percent), colon (6.9 percent), lung (6.5 percent) and urinary organs (6.5 percent). In women, the most frequent sites are breast (30.3 percent), skin excluding melanoma (9.1 percent), colon (7.6 percent), lung (6.5 percent) and melanoma (5.9 percent). Despite these rates, recent developments have shown that cancer patients living in Sweden are less likely to die of cancer compared to those living in other European countries. Cancer survival rates in Sweden are 64.7 percent. In northern Europe, the rate is 59.6 percent.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

In 2012, an estimated 173,135 people in Sweden had dementia, accounting for 1.82 percent of the population. This is higher than the 1.55 percent average in the European Union. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia contribute to 69.1 deaths per 100,000 people every year. Dementia is more common with increasing age. Rarely are people below 65 diagnosed with dementia.

5. Sexually Transmitted Infections

People in Sweden are more likely to be treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea than in other European countries. A major contributor to this problem is the lack of contraception use. Studies show that 50 percent of young adults in Sweden do not use condoms with new partners and 30 percent do not use any contraception.

Acknowledging and understanding these common diseases in Sweden is important for public health policy efforts in the country.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Sweden

As the first country to legislate freedom of the press in 1766, Sweden has had a history of being a vanguard for human rights for hundreds of years. Human rights in Sweden are a top priority for both its citizens and its government. With its seat on the U.N. Security Council and the establishment of the Human Rights Watch offices within its borders, Sweden sets a remarkable example for other developed countries to follow for upholding human rights.

The strong human rights record in Sweden is due to its governmental determination in uplifting its humanitarian tenets, include fighting discrimination, protecting the rule of law, building democracy and strengthening freedom of expression. Government officials fervently believe in protecting human rights in Sweden because it promotes global development and national security. In 2008, the Swedish government took detailed measures towards eradicating discrimination as much as possible by mandating that human rights must be incorporated into all realms of foreign policy.

Sweden’s international leadership in human rights is a defining characteristic of the country’s view on foreign policy. Given that extensive laws protect Sweden’s citizens within its borders, the country’s current agenda is to protect these rights abroad and to introduce laws that protect those whose rights are not as guaranteed. Sweden assists various international organizations such as the United Nations in extending human rights to those living in developing countries.

In order to combat domestic discrimination, the Swedish government introduced the Swedish Discrimination Act of 2009. It counters discrimination in professional and educational sectors by allowing compensation to be given to those who have experienced discrimination. Although Sweden exerts significant effort to protect human rights, there are still certain demographics that its legislation is not protecting completely. Specific groups that have been targeted include Roma, African, and Muslim Swedes. However, the Swedish government is aware of these reports and strives to assist those who encounter discrimination. According to Sweden’s official website, “Human rights largely begin at home. As Sweden strives to walk its talk, it is important to ensure that the values promoted abroad are upheld at home.”

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Feminist Foreign PolicyAccording to its website, the Swedish government gives gender equality high priority when it comes to foreign aid. Swedish leaders believe fighting for women’s rights is an essential step in establishing a secure and sustainable world. Consequently, they have launched a feminist foreign policy action plan to remove obstacles for women and girls in developing countries.

Since 2015, the nation has revisited and revitalized the initiative regularly. Goals for 2017 focus on increasing rights for female migrants and refugees; creating economic freedom for women via legislation; reducing violence against women; capitalizing on women’s potential to suppress conflict and encouraging sexual and reproductive rights.

A statement on the Government Offices of Sweden’s website details plans to service these goals. Leaders plan to allocate funds through relevant stakeholders, who will utilize aid to combat human rights abuses, endorse women’s financial and judicial empowerment and enact laws that provide women the same rights that men have.

Funds will also benefit initiatives to break down cultural associations between masculinity and violence, encouraging men to act as peacemakers in their homes and communities, as well as bolster movements to provide open access to contraceptives.

Canada has recently adopted a similar feminist foreign policy plan. Like Sweden, Canada recognizes that significant improvements in global poverty over the past few decades have not provided equal benefit to both men and women. To foster equal opportunities, Canada will strategically invest foreign aid in efforts seeking to improve women’s access to resources that can raise them from poverty.

A statement on the Government of Canada website acknowledges the challenges for women in developing countries. The difficulty lies in intersections of deeply-rooted inequality, conflict and consequences of climate change. The statement also highlights that with enough support, women can better help their families and communities.

Human dignity, security, climate action and inclusive governance comprise the core values of Canada’s plan. Their ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and promote economic advancement by empowering women to participate readily in politics, the workforce and their communities.

Canada’s statement also includes plans to involve men and boys by disputing the norms that reinforce gender-based injustice. They also provide an intersectional scope that includes the interests of people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, identities and abilities.

While timeworn power structures cause disproportionate struggles for destitute women and girls, leaders around the globe are eager to eradicate the imbalance. Feminist foreign policy is an essential step toward this goal.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

Since 1990, Sweden has been working toward reducing the acidification of lake water and reaching its renewable energy goal of 50 percent by 2020. The Scandinavian country ensures that the drinking water conforms to National Food Administration requirements before being released for public consumption.

The water quality in Sweden is currently at a very high standard. The lake water passes through various stages of purification before it is distributed as drinking water. In the initial stage of purification, the water is decontaminated with mechanical and chemical methods. The second stage leads the water through “slow sand filters that extract the remaining organic pollutants.” Once the water is purified of contaminants, it is processed into the distribution network.

According to ClimateChangePost (CCP), which publishes the most recent information on climate change and adaption, water quality in Sweden could face considerable consequences due to climate change. Half of Sweden’s local water supply is derived from the 95,700 lakes and watercourses that dominate its landscape. The other half is extracted from groundwater.

Climate change projections indicate that more frequent heavy rainfall will elevate levels of sewage overflow. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published an article identifying the link between extreme precipitation and the outbreak of waterborne disease. The study analyzed the time period 1948 to 1994 and demonstrates that “51 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks were preceded by incidences of heavy rain.” This is in part because contaminated raw water creates widespread health risks, such as microbiological growth.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that microscopic parasites, Cryptosporidium, were found in Östersund’s drinking water during an outbreak of gastroenteritis in November 2010. Cryptosporidium was found in 174 cases of the 700 cases of gastroenteritis. Located in northern Sweden, Östersund’s drinking water tested positive for Cryptosporidium.

On Mar. 30, 2017, the drinking water in Stockholm received a Certification of Quality by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The certificate states that the drinking water in Stockholm City is of “high and consistent quality.” The water is sourced from Lake Mälaren, Lovö and Norsborg.

With close monitoring of climate changes and scientific studies, it is hopeful Sweden’s water supply will continue to produce high-quality drinking water.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Hunger in Sweden
Sweden is a very fortunate country. Globally, Sweden ranks sixth, behind other Western European nations in keeping its citizens fed. There is virtually no hunger in Sweden, meaning it has very low levels of malnutrition and undernourishment as well as high access to safe, clean drinking water. Sweden, being so fortunate in its ability to maintain healthy citizens, has started The Hunger Project — a project designed to achieve a sustainable end to global hunger.

The Hunger Project was founded in 1977 in Sweden. It has become a global nonprofit dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty, declaring “our vision is a world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity.” The Hunger Project now has many global allies, including in the United States. Some allied partners are Citi, the Ford Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and the World Bank, to name a few.

Starting to fight global hunger in Sweden quickly moved the project to the areas of the world that needed the most help. The Hunger Project works in three main large areas: Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The Hunger Project uses three essential activities in order to carry out its mission. The first is mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance. The second is to empower women as key change agents. The third is to forge effective partnerships with local government.

The Hunger Project works in partnership with people in Africa, South Asia and Latin America in an effort to build “bottom-up” strategies. “At the heart of [their] methodology is our fundamental belief in people as the author of their own development.” The Hunger Project works with people fighting against hunger and poverty in an effort to create a self-sustainable lifestyle outside the hardships of hunger.

The Hunger Project programs reach 17.3 million people in 16,000 communities. The Hunger Project encourages local solutions and community-led results.

While there is not much hunger in Sweden, there is hunger worldwide, and Sweden is working with many other countries globally to help those in need. The Hunger Project believes that the end to world hunger can be achieved by 2030. By working hard and efficiently this goal can be realized.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Joan Rose: World Water Week's Champion
The 2016 World Water Week, attended by 3,100 people from more than 120 countries, was held in Stockholm, Sweden, where the theme was “Water for Sustainable Growth.” While this year’s World Water Week was primarily focused on water as it relates to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the U.N. General Assembly and last year’s COP 21 climate agreement, many issues, such as pollution and sanitation, were raised.

The worldwide contamination of water is one of the greatest health threats of our time, as many experts believe that our oceans, rivers, lakes and wetlands are more polluted now than at any other time in history.

A recent report released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) found that as many as 323 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America are at risk of contracting infections from pathogen-ridden water. Apart from being a health issue, polluted water in these continents negatively affects food supplies, economies and inequality experienced by women, children and the poor.

Professor Joan Rose, a microbiologist and the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University, is one of the foremost scientists working to end worldwide water pollution. At this year’s World Water Week, Rose won the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize, the greatest honor that an individual working in water research or development can receive.

Rose has dedicated most of her life to this field, working in countries such as Malawi, Kenya and Singapore, as well as numerous organizations including the World Health Organization, the International Water Association and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Throughout her career, Joan Rose has led research, set standards and educated the public about water pollution. While the issue may seem overwhelming, Rose believes that the future is bright, stating in an article published by the Guardian that, “There is more public support, more money, more political will to clean up water. We have more knowledge and more willingness to pay.”

Liam Travers

Photo: Flickr

Fossil Free Sweden
History was made in December 2015 when almost 200 nations from around the world signed the Paris Agreement. This commitment’s mission is to actively decrease global emissions of greenhouse gas in an effort to reverse the effects of global warming. Sweden, however, made a bold promise to end dependence on fossil fuel before the Paris Agreement had even been drafted.

While this may seem like a difficult feat, Sweden is confident — investing an extra $546 million in renewable energy as a first step towards achieving their goal. Renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and energy storage have existed in Sweden and many other countries long before the Fossil Free Sweden initiative began.

Now, with increased funding and a more concrete goal, these technologies have the opportunity to deter the use of not only fossil fuel but nuclear power as well. Multiple power plants generating nuclear power in the country have already been scheduled for closure with no replacements planned.

The Swedish people, seeing the numerous benefits in becoming a fossil free Sweden, have all come together in support of the movement. On Feb. 8, 2016, over 150 groups, businesses and municipalities gathered at a workshop held by the Ministry of Environment and Energy in support of the Fossil Free Sweden Initiative.

In addition to creating a more sustainable country for future generations, Swedish businesses also hope to create both new economic and employment opportunities. Technology and research related job positions become more crucial as will careers in the transportation industry, which needs reform in order to eliminate fossil fuel.

As greenhouse emissions have decreased by 22 percent since the 1990s, the Swedish GDP has grown 58 percent. The OECD sees continued growth in 2016 as well as a continued shrinking of the unemployment rate. Recent wage settlements are predicted aid to increasing the nation’s overall household income.

A bright future not only seems possible for Sweden but inevitable as the fossil free initiative continues to progress. Goals such as making the country’s capital of Stockholm fossil fuel free by 2050 are moving towards becoming a reality. The people of the country are coming together on a national and local level to plan and implement changes in how to power their country.

The rest of the world is following Sweden’s example now that the Paris Agreement has been adopted by so many nations. The world is choosing progress because of what it means for the planet and the higher quality of life it brings to the people living here.

Aaron Walsh

Facts about Refugees in Sweden
The number of refugees seeking shelter in Sweden increases with the passing of time. Below are 10 facts about refugees in Sweden and the Swedish refugee system as it stands today.

  1. In 2015, approximately 163,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden, a country with a population of 9.8 million.
  2. Of those who applied for refugee status in Sweden, 31 percent were of Syrian descent, 25 percent were of Afghani descent, 12 percent were of Iraqi descent and the remaining 32 percent of refugees came from other Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Eritrea, Somalia and Albania.
  3. As of 2015, Sweden’s population of 9.8 million included around 16 percent of people who were not born in Sweden; therefore, they either immigrated or are refugees in Sweden from other countries. By comparison, 13.3 percent of the United States’ population in 2015 were immigrants not born in the country.
  4. Sweden, approximately the size of California, is made up of immigrants by 16 percent, resulting in a significantly higher concentration in comparison to the U.S.
  5. A popular destination for refugees in Sweden is Malmö, the country’s third-largest city. Forty-three percent of Malmö’s residents are of foreign background. At 40,000 strong, Iraqis constitute the largest racial group.
  6. Many refugees in Sweden establish businesses as soon as they are accepted into the country, building falafel houses; bakeries selling traditional Syrian, Iranian or another nationality’s pastries; dentistry; and other businesses that help to diversify the Swedish economic market.
  7. However, the Swedish government imposed new regulations on refugees recently. If a documented refugee wants to also have their family members come live in Sweden, they must apply for their family’s refugee status within three months of arriving in Sweden.
  8. If a refugee does not apply for their family’s relocation within three months of arrival, the refugee living in Sweden must show they have the means to financially support their entire family. Under previous legislation, refugees only had to prove they could financially support themselves when applying for their family’s transfer to Sweden.
  9. Sweden’s refugee policies have also changed for children and young adults seeking refuge independent of a family unit; any refugee under the age of 25 who applies for permanent residency must have completed high school and prove that they can support themselves financially.
  10. The precise number of minors crossing oceans and borders without their parents to reach other countries for asylum each year is unknown. Sweden registered 35,000 in 2015 alone. These children are assigned legal guardians who help nurture and prepare refugees for life in Sweden, including special language courses so they can attend Swedish public schools.

The recent influx of refugees in Sweden has made it a more diverse country teeming with potential. Refugees in Sweden have helped add to the economy of the country, and that help should not be trivialized. Sweden’s growth as a country on the global stage is something to look forward to, and their refugee population will surely lend a hand, if asked.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Flickr

mapillaryIn spite of modern digital services like Google Street View, many locations in developing countries, such as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, remain inaccessible to much of the world.

Swedish startup Mapillary and the World Bank have teamed up to solve this problem. Mapillary enables individuals to map their own streets by collecting street level photos simply by using their smartphones.

Such maps can help cities anticipate and recover from natural disasters, track traffic congestion, distribute resources to the impoverished communities that need them and build public transportation systems.

Mapillary CEO Jan Erik Solem told NPR News, “Dar es Salaam has really poor map data. The reason is that the mapping companies need people on the ground or in the local area to create the actual map.”

Maps that detail roads, homes, rivers and terrain may help kickstart city planning.

“In order for it to flourish into the metropolitan city [Dar es Salaam] has the potential to become, we began a community-based mapping project called Dar Ramani Huria (Swahili for “Dar Open Map”),” states a blog post from the World Bank, “to bring disaster prevention and response to previously unmapped areas, training the local community to create highly-accurate maps by the residents who know their city best.”

25 wards have been charted so far in Dar es Salaam with Mapillary. The task was accomplished by attaching a camera to a local Tanzanian rickshaw and by using photos taken by a motorist. These photos were then uploaded to Mapillary and constructed in 3D. A blog post by the World Bank on Mapillary’s website says that this information allows them to “pinpoint troubled areas” and to map out the routes locals often use.

As these maps are developed, they are run through software that develops natural disaster scenarios to help citizens improve planning and preventive efforts.

NPR reports that more than 260 citizens have volunteered to take photos for the mapping project. Locals have taken around 23,000 photos, which will map 300 miles of road.

“Sparking the community’s interest in mapping has the potential to truly transform Dar es Salaam into a prosperous city with the infrastructure to prevent floods, bring awareness to the need for flood prevention and risk reduction, and arm its citizens with the right tools and skills to build a better city,” states the same blog post.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: NPR, Mapillary, World Bank
Photo: Flickr