Life expectancy in the Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a country located in the Pacific Ocean. In total, there are 1,200 islands and islets with a total population of 58,000. Although the estimated life expectancy in the Marshall Islands was 72 years in 1987, the life expectancy dropped to 65 in 2000. Today, the Marshallese have an estimated life expectancy of 74. By comparison, the United States has a life expectancy of 78. Here are some of the problems with and potential solutions to life expectancy in the Marshall Islands.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in the Marshall Islands

  1. The leading causes of death in the Marshall Islands are diabetes and Ischemic heart disease. In 2017, it was estimated that 5,642 per 100,000 deaths were caused by Ischemic heart diseases. Many people in the Marshall Islands suffer from problems associated with low levels of physical activity and occupational hazards. The Ministry of Health has created government programs to encourage exercise.
  2. Life expectancy decreased after the 1940s because of U.S. nuclear weapon testing on the islands. During the Cold War, the United States decided to test multiple nuclear weapons on the islands. They moved dangerous soil from a Nevada atomic testing location into the Marshall Islands. Despite the U.S. relocating residents from the Bikini and Enewetak atolls, the citizens have still experienced symptoms of radiation sickness. Lingering radiation may be responsible for 170 different types of cancer in a population of 25,000 Marshallese.
  3. Dengue fever outbreaks pose a risk to life expectancy. Dengue fever can lead to more severe conditions in 5% of the population. In 2019, the island of Ebeye, which is the country’s most populated island, experienced a massive outbreak due to rampant mosquitoes. Because of these outbreaks, the Ministry of Health issued $450,000 to fight the disease.
  4. The country’s life expectancy is similar to other surrounding countries. In 2018, the Marshall Islands’ estimated life expectancy matched that of the Federated States of Micronesia at 67 years old. Most life expectancy data from the Marshall Islands has not been updated since the early 2000s, and the WHO has marked their life expectancy data as not available. Though the information is not clear, there is currently an approximate life expectancy of 74 according to the World Factbook.
  5. Life expectancy in the Marshall Islands is threatened by rising sea levels. The islands may completely disappear by 2050 because of rising sea levels. This threat affects life expectancy and quality of life, since Marshallese could become refugees as a result. Global support and funding to reduce pollution could help reduce this risk. There has also been discussion about a possibility of raising the islands above sea level.
  6. Various dangerous weather conditions affect life expectancy. The islanders have experienced droughts, bleaching coral reefs and cyclones. Wave flooding due to changing climate conditions could also gradually make water unsuitable for drinking. In September 2012, a drought damaged much of the islands’ produce, affecting 20% of the population. To combat climate change, the Internal Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) are committed to drastic reductions of carbon emissions by 32% by 2025.
  7. Women have a longer life expectancy than men. Projections for 2020 estimated that women will live 76.5 years, compared to their male counterparts who will live 71.8 years. However, health care is not equally accessible between the sexes. In 2019, the Marshall Islands introduced the Gender Equality Act to change this. It specified the government’s responsibility to provide affordable health care to all women.
  8. Imported processed foods diminish the life expectancy of the Marshallese. A 2013 study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that 65% of the islanders are overweight or obese. Marshallese diets often lack micronutrients because many eat more packaged food than fresh island-grown food. This has caused problems associated with multiple diseases. The Ministry of Resources and Development is attempting to change this by promoting traditional island agriculture and diets.
  9. Health care causes problems with life expectancy. Health care in the Marshall Islands is as cheap as $5 per checkup. Despite this, health care can be hard to access. Much of the population does not reside in urban centers, yet there are only two major hospitals in the larger cities of Ebeye and Majuro. The Ministry of Health has enacted a 3-Year Rolling Strategic Plan to ensure that health care is accessible on the less populated islands. The plan will also help fight non-communicable and communicable diseases that affect life expectancy.
  10. Limited job opportunities decrease life expectancy. The minimum wage on the island was $5/hour as of 2014, and in 2016, the unemployment rate was about 36%. Since there is not much competition in different job sectors, jobs can be difficult to find. Additionally, the estimated poverty rate in the Marshall Islands stands at 30%. These factors make it difficult for Marshallese to pay for health care. To increase job opportunities, the government is working to attract foreign companies to the islands by enticing them to create fisheries and tourism.

These facts highlight persistent problems, as well as efforts to combat them. Moving forward, the government and other humanitarian organizations must continue to focus on improving life expectancy in the Marshall Islands.

 – Sarah Litchney
Photo: Pixabay

Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.


Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in KiribatiKiribati is a small island country in the central Pacific. The people of Kiribati have a positive outlook on life, despite the fact that many factors such as a lack of sanitation, overcrowding, high unemployment and environmental threats have led to 22 percent of the population living without basic needs.

The Ministry of Health in Kiribati provides free hospital services and public health and nursing services on the island and tries to focus on disease prevention and education. Yet, the persistence of urban poverty, climate change and poor water quality have led to a nearly constant influx of disease on the island.

Diarrheal Disease
Diarrheal outbreaks are common diseases in Kiribati for a few reasons. One of the most prevalent sources of diarrhea is dirty water. One in 20 infants dies before their first birthday in Kiribati from drinking unclean water. Some other causes of diarrheal disease are poor food handling and public defecation due to overcrowding.

There are three different types of malnutrition: wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age). The most common type of malnutrition in Kiribati is stunting. Malnutrition not only reduces quality of life but also contributes greatly to infant mortality, weak immune systems and mortality in general.

Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus
Two other common diseases in Kiribati are dengue fever and chikungunya, both of which are viruses transmitted through the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. In 2015, it was reported that more than 12,000 people have been infected with mosquito-borne illnesses.

Ciguatera Poisoning
Ciguatera poisoning comes from consuming reef fish that have been contaminated by ciguatoxins, or marine biotoxins that cause food intoxication. The toxins can cause a wide range of neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms. According to research, the toxins mainly develop in shallow waters that contain seaweed, sediments and dead coral. Thus, it is possible that low sea levels and surface water temperatures are contributing to the poisoning.

Lifestyle Disease
Some of the most common diseases in Kiribati are those that stem from certain lifestyle habits or behaviors. Diseases of this kind include HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. The prevalence of HIV and STIs are due to a lack of sexual education. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are most often associated with physical inactivity and poor eating habits. Tobacco use also contributes to respiratory disease and cancers.

Kiribati is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a national development plan for the 2016-2019 period that includes operational plans for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Immediate goals include reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases, improving maternal and child health, preventing the spread of communicable diseases and strengthening health service delivery.

Awareness and prevention of communicable disease will be key to implementing this plan. With the intervention of WHO, Kiribati has made strides in providing cost-effective, quality health services and preventing disease.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Cuba

Following former President Obama’s efforts to reconcile and progress relations between Cuba and the U.S., travel opportunities to the previously forbidden country are now viable. Given that this has been uncharted territory for many decades, it is crucial that travelers are made aware of the top diseases in Cuba so as to take preventative measures before, during and after their travels.

Similar to any internationally planned trip, certain immunizations are required. If traveling to Cuba, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations for Typhoid, Rabies and Hepatitis A and B. There are, however, current vector-borne diseases present in Cuba that cannot be vaccinated against, particularly mosquito-borne diseases.

Zika Virus

The ongoing Zika Virus is especially concerning in Cuba given its tropical location where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent. A global update given on January 23 by the Public Health Agency of Canada affirmed the ongoing issue of Zika, emphasizing that pregnant women should continue to avoid travel to countries that have reported cases of the virus. Typical symptoms such as a fever, headache, conjunctivitis, skin rash, joint and muscle pain can be resolved with regular care.

Dengue Fever

In 1981, a Dengue Fever outbreak in Cuba took the lives of 158 people. Because of this and other past epidemics, thorough safeguarding to further prevent top diseases from growing have been implemented. Nonetheless, Dengue Fever is still a concern in Cuba without a vaccine to protect against it. Symptoms include a fever and headache and can lead to physical shock and hemorrhage.


Another top disease in Cuba, also carried by mosquitos and insects alike, is Chikungunya. Symptoms include fever, arthritis-like pain and skin rashes.

Thus far, the variance of these mosquito related diseases are vector-borne and do not have a vaccine to prevent or end the contagion. Because of this, the CDC recommends that residents and travelers take any preventative measure necessary to decrease the risk of exposure. Suggestions to protect oneself include caution around food and water sources, using repellent, covering exposed skin, keeping netting around living quarters, avoiding sharing body fluids and keeping away from animals.

After numerous cases of residents being infected with these diseases, Cuba has employed intense preventative measures. Mosquito control workers are assigned to routinely monitor households and local clinics have sent out 15,000 workers to help contain mosquito exposure.

Hepatitis A

Within Cuba are many areas that lack proper sanitation, consequently contaminating water and food sources with fecal matter. Exposure to this type of contamination has been known to cause Hepatitis A, weakening liver function as a result. Although there is a vaccine available for Hepatitis A, those that contract the disease can experience symptoms such as fever, jaundice and diarrhea for up to nine months.

The diplomatic break between Cuba and the U.S. led to a decline in Cuba’s healthcare system causing an insufficient supply of medicine and medical equipment. Infrastructure was also diminished which created impoverished conditions and a spike in water-borne diseases. As the United States and Cuba continue to establish camaraderie, a unified international effort could work toward alleviating the top diseases in Cuba.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Mosquito Death Ray: Technology That Could Save Millions
Mosquitos transmit various diseases including malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Although both bed nets and insecticides are helpful in fighting off these mosquitos, a new invention is working to completely eliminate these disease-infested bugs: the Mosquito Death Ray.

Developed by Intellectual Ventures, the Mosquito Death Ray zaps mosquitoes to death before they can make human contact. The photonic fence technology creates a force field that can be set up around the perimeter of different areas. These include villages, schools, buildings and fields.

The new technology is still in its beginning stages and is not available commercially. However, once completed and ready for implementation, the Mosquito Death Ray could potentially save the lives of millions.

The technology looks to detect female mosquitoes as the reproduction of more mosquitoes would be impossible without them. The gender of the mosquito is determined by their wing beat frequency — female mosquitoes have a lower wing beat frequency compared to male mosquitoes.

Eliminating mosquitoes is an important step in saving the lives of millions. Malaria, dengue and yellow fever account for millions of deaths and hundreds of millions of illnesses every year.

Yellow fever affects more than 120 million people in regions including Africa, India and the Americas.

Over 2 billion people worldwide are affected by dengue fever, which affects one’s ability to function in day to day activities.

Malaria is extremely prevalent in 91 countries and impairs the working capacity of millions of people, linking it to poverty and developmental issues. There are over 500 million cases each year with the majority of the cases infecting Africans. Each year, malaria kills 2.7 million people.

Without mosquitos transmitting these diseases from person to person, people and children could focus more on their educations and careers allowing countries to develop at a quicker pace.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Clean Lahore
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne illness that causes sudden fever and acute pain in the joints. This illness is prevalent in many places throughout the world, including Lahore, Pakistan. In recent years, a new technology known as the Clean Lahore app has been designed to prevent the disease.

In 2011, there was an outbreak of dengue fever during which 20,000 citizens in the Punjab region of Pakistan were affected. Pakistani government officials were looking for a way to slow the spread of the disease. Created and developed by Umar Saif, Clean Lahore allows officials to track efforts taken to prevent the spread of the fever. This new app allows an investigator to photo-log crews of sanitation workers as they complete their jobs. More specifically, the app logs workers as they clear out pools of standing water, which act as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry the illness.

Saif used his app to then map out locations of both sick people and mosquito larvae while making sure workers were doing their jobs to the fullest. This allows officials to develop preventative measures and communicate with workers about what they need to do on their part. Government officials implemented the app post the 2011 outbreak. By 2013, results proved the positive effect of the app. Compared to the 2011 outbreak, in 2013 only a few dozen cases of dengue fever were recorded.

Investigators learned that many workers were unaware of their impact on stopping an outbreak from occurring: “Whatever I do, it’s just to provide for my kids,” one 30-year-old worker stated. By making the worker aware of his impact, he can change how he handles operations in his job.

Dengue fever is found all over the world including Africa, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This new technology can be used to help government officials stop the spread. Progress against dengue fever, in addition to aid from the Clean Lahore app, paves the way to eventually stop the spread of countless diseases in Punjab as well as other regions.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is a rapidly spreading viral disease in the developing world. Thankfully, though, a new method of analyzing cell phone call records to health clinics is proving successful at predicting the next outbreak locations of the disease.

This disease is mosquito-borne and results in flu-like symptoms that can persist until a fatality occurs, especially in children or others who do not have access to swift and proper medical care.

Dengue fever infects 390 million people worldwide every year, and many more are at risk. The illness is found mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates and acts a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in Asian and Latin American countries.

In the United States, information on the spread of diseases is gathered by looking at road usage and other travel patterns. However, this kind of information proves often unavailable and unreliable in developing countries. Furthermore, dengue fever is the fastest-spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world, and many places are exposed to this disease for the first time and unprepared to effectively deal with such a health crisis.

According to a study published in Science Advances journal, researchers found that by studying cell phone call records in the Punjab region of Pakistan, they were able to pinpoint where dengue fever cases occurred and predict where they might occur next.

This new method looks at the patterns of calls to a local health hotline in conjunction with weather information. This combination provides real-time data of when and where the disease is likely to spread geographically.

The phone records are collected on a large-scale and anonymous basis to protect the personal privacy of the callers.

Dengue fever is often seen in areas of rapid urbanization, which commonly occurs in developing countries. This method of monitoring the disease is particularly useful in these developing countries because it is a low-cost method. Call pattern statistics provide an effective low-cost alternative in many nations that lack the resources to closely monitor the spread of disease.

Additionally, there is no specific globally-recognized treatment for dengue fever. Early detection has proven critical in helping those afflicted with the disease. Receiving medical care early on reduced mortality for this disease from more than 20 percent to less than one percent. Since call analysis can predict where outbreaks may occur in the future, it is an effective way to stop a disease that is particularly difficult to treat.

While the examination of call patterns does not currently account for international travel, which does play a role in the transmission of dengue fever, this transport avenue could certainly be in the future for statistical call analysis. Even the current iterations of this method provide important real-time data that can help reduce the spread of a dangerous disease, especially in developing countries.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr


Over the past several decades, the global health community has taken on the challenge of eradicating diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and malaria.

Dengue fever (pronounced den’gee), a mosquito-borne viral infection, is another agenda item, which the World Health Organization (WHO) notes “has rapidly spread in all regions” putting about half of the world’s population at risk.

Similarly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls dengue fever a “leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics.”

The WHO estimates that nearly 400 million people are infected with dengue fever each year. Close to 500,000 individuals who have developed severe dengue fever or dengue hemorrhagic fever will require hospitalization and about “2.5 percent of those affected die.”

Symptoms of severe dengue fever include sharp abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, fatigue, restlessness and blood in vomit. The WHO highlights that the first 24-48 hours after initial symptoms begin can be lethal without proper medical attention and care.

Currently, there is no cure for dengue fever. However, the WHO has now approved a vaccination called Dengvaxia, which took 20 years to be developed at a cost of $1.8 billion.

Dengvaxia, developed by Sanofi Pasteur is being released in the Philippines this month in the first ever public immunization program for the virus. The Philippines has had the highest rates of dengue fever in the pacific region with over 200,000 cases reported in 2013.

A report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that the vaccination “prevents dengue hospitalizations by 80 percent and severe dengue cases by 93 percent.” The program was launched in Manila’s Marikina city to hundreds of public school children and is being administered in three courses, separated by six months.

The Philippines Health Secretary Janette Garin called the program a “historic milestone”. Garin continued, “We are the first country to introduce, adopt and implement the first-ever dengue vaccine through (the) public health system and under a public school setting.”

Michael A. Clark

Photo: Flickr

Dengue FeverCountries in tropical climates, including Mexico and the Philippines, have started to approve the usage of a vaccine to prevent dengue fever.

Dengue fever is the most rapidly spreading mosquito-borne virus in the world today. The virus is currently present in 150 countries and over 390 million people are infected per year, with many cases being under-reported.

According to the World Health Organization, half of the world’s population is in danger of developing dengue fever. Patients inflicted with the disease are typically advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and consume paracetamol, a widely used over-the-counter medicine to reduce fever.

Several tropical countries recently announced their plans to help prevent and reduce the number of dengue fever cases, with the world’s first dengue vaccine. Dengvaxia, a live attenuated version of the virus, will combat all four strains of the disease. The drug is scheduled to go on the market this month.

In the Philippines, health officials have started filing orders for Dengvaxia, aiming to bring the vaccine into its national market as soon as possible. Janette L. Garin, the Secretary of the Philippines Department of Health told GMA News that her country “is the only [location] where three phases of the clinical trial were done… it’s a reflection of how good our researchers are.”

Garin stated that officials will initially administer vaccines to students from eight to 10 years old, since they are the most likely candidates to fall victim to dengue fever. The vaccine is also less effective and more unpredictable in older patients.

“We don’t recommend it to [elder individuals] because there would be other interactions… That is why we want to play on the safe side,” Garin explained.

John Gilmore

Sources: GMA Network, WHO, Impatient Optimists, News Medical
Photo: Scientific American

Dengue Fever PredictionThe ability to determine where and when epidemics will break out may soon be available at the touch of your fingertips.

In Pakistan, dengue fever was largely endemic in the southern city of Karachi; however, in recent years it has been appearing in a previously unaffected area — northeast Pakistan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that dengue fever is transmitted by the infectious bite of a mosquito, and currently there is no vaccine or specific medication for this illness, which usually results in a range of symptoms including “mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain and rash.”

A recent article by SciDev describes the possibilities of a mobile phone app which can effectively predict epidemics by tracking the patterns of people.

“As the transmission of the virus that causes dengue fever is partly driven by human travel, analyzing how people move across the country allows researchers to predict when and where epidemics may break out,” SciDev says.

Telenor, a Norwegian mobile provider that operates in Pakistan, teamed up with researchers to track the call records from close to 40 million subscriber SIM cards within the last seven months of 2013.

Mathematical data pertaining to traveling patterns could be tracked and was later published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This information combined with clinical and climate data helped serve as a “model retroactively to predict the likely location and timing of epidemics across the country.”

This newfound data provided encouraging results that would enable researchers to “effectively target interventions, surveillance and clinical response” for where and when to expect dengue epidemics.

“The travel model predicted the geographic spread and timing of outbreaks in 2013 in both recently epidemic and emerging locations, the paper says. For example, it showed good overlap with the actual pattern of the first dengue cases in the northeastern cities of Lahore and Mingora,” says SciDev.

Predictive models may be the solution for mapping and creating early warning systems for diseases such as dengue. With such success regarding Dengue Fever prediction in Pakistan, it is possible for other Asian countries to adopt the same technology for other diseases, such as measles, malaria and influenza.

Soon, the very touch of a button may be able to save thousands from experiencing the disease via dengue fever prediction.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: WHO, SciDev, PNAS
Photo: Pixabay