Non-Communicable Diseases Key in Reducing PovertyIn a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed non-communicable diseases as the number one killer throughout the world. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, have over an 80 percent occurrence rate in low-income countries and poverty-stricken regions, specifically.

The WHO also estimates that 63 percent of all deaths in 2008 were caused by NCDs, with 25 percent of those people being younger than 60 years old.

In a related study, Harvard University found that each extra year of life expectancy can raise a country’s GDP by nearly 4 percent, adding to the belief that NCDs help facilitate the spread of poverty and hinder development and economic growth. Although much has been done in industrialized countries to combat these diseases, the lack of health infrastructure throughout the developing world makes it very difficult to consistently provide the proper treatment to each individual affected by NCDs.

A “roadmap” to fight NCDs around the world, published by Johns Hopkins University, recommends that it is imperative for the private and public sectors to work together in order to find efficient solutions to tackling NCDs across the globe, especially in poverty-stricken countries. It also asserts that health infrastructure in low-income countries needs to be consistent and standardized in order to avoid building “systems that are complex, duplicative and inefficient.”

The roadmap also recommends a higher level of cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and regulatory institutions in order to streamline the process of approving selected treatments, and highlights the need for pharmaceutical companies to play a larger role in building “partnerships with communities and governments.”

Christina Kindlon

Sources: Forbes
Photo: United Nations University-MERIT

A new study led by Harvard Medical School researcher Matthew Bonds is linking an environment’s biodiversity and public health, namely its susceptibility to the spread of disease. Bonds found that countries with decreased biodiversity “will have a heavier burden of vector-borne and parasitic diseases,” an assertion which has drastic implications for public health systems worldwide.

Previously, some might have suggested that a lack of funding is the biggest roadblock to protecting people from pathogens. These new findings indicate that governments may be well-served in their quests for healthy citizens by protecting natural ecosystems. Bonds explains that “the more organisms you have out there, the more things there are that can interrupt the life cycle of disease, and the less concentration you’ll have of any vector.” When humans urbanize an area, many species are forced out of their natural habitats and end up dying off in large numbers. Pests and other disease-carrying creatures breed freely, resulting in a much greater risk of exposure for humans.

The United Nations estimates that one out of every three species on Earth faces extinction. Bonds uses this statistic to demonstrate how a country like Indonesia faces a grave threat from losing its biodiversity: given a 15% decline in this metric, the country would face a 30% larger disease burden. By elucidating biodiversity’s link to public health, Bonds demonstrates yet another area in which undamaged ecosystems provide major benefits to humans who can exist alongside natural cycles, instead of in place of them.

Jake Simon

Source: NPR
Photo: About Indo

The Sanitary Importance of ToiletsHow is poverty fought? Well, there are many different approaches that are currently being tried and some may seem more self-explanatory than others. For example, there are micro-lending, education aid, anti-corruption efforts, and attempts to create jobs and industry. But what about sanitation? Specifically, what about the toilets?

Toilets, and the access to toilets and established sanitation standards, are actually a very, very important issue in much of the developing world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2010 that 2.5 billion people worldwide didn’t have access to a toilet. The lack of toilets can lead to many serious sanitation problems; exposed fecal matter can lead to any number of a long list of diseases and can cause infection, lead to dysentery, and provided a breeding ground for many parasites.

More than reducing levels of infection and disease, however, the sanitary importance of toilets offers an increased sense of dignity. The people living without toilet access are not all living in rural areas. Many live in city slums and must go about their business without the luxury of privacy. The availability of toilets is even shown to increase the school attendance of teenage girls, who may not go to school during their menstrual cycle. The non-governmental organization Charity Water works to provide clean water and sanitation in the developing world. Increased access to toilets has been one of their goals for years. Check them out here!

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Charity Water
Photo: The Guardian


The 10 countries with the shortest life expectancy can be found in one continent, Africa, with the exception of Afghanistan. Short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa can be caused by famine, poor governments, low levels of education (research has suggested that education correlates with healthcare awareness), availability of clean water and the existence of widespread AIDS. In Afghanistan, the main reason for short life expectancy has been due to infant mortality and women not surviving through childbirth. According to The Guardian, better access to healthcare in the last decade has helped cut infant mortality rates in Afghanistan.

What can we do? Well, donating and persuading our government to give more foreign aid helps solve the poverty issue. Once these countries move up, they can begin to fund higher levels of education, afford advanced agricultural tools which can help sustain growth, and improve healthcare.

(Listed top-to-bottom from the country with the shortest life expectancy)

  1. Chad: 48.69
  2. Guinea-Bissau: 49.11
  3. South Africa: 49.41
  4. Swaziland: 49.42
  5. Afghanistan: 49.72
  6. Central African Republic: 50.48
  7. Somalia: 50.80
  8. Zimbabwe: 51.82
  9. Lesotho: 51.86
  10. Mozambique: 52.02

Leen Abdallah

Source: CIA World Factbook, The Guardian, Econs Guide
Photo: Google: Short Life Expectancy