Posts


Andorra is a healthy country; its lack of heavy industry leaves air clean, and people of all ages are used to climbing up and down its hillsides, both of which contribute to the country’s very high life expectancy Still, there is disease. The major diseases in Andorra are non-communicable in nature.

Some of the major diseases in Andorra are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neurological disorders. These are the most deadly non-communicable diseases. According to HealthGrove, 40.1 percent are affected by cardiovascular diseases, 31.6 percent are affected by cancer and 11.9 percent are affected by neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Cardiovascular Diseases
In 2013, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases were the most deadly cardiovascular diseases. They accounted for 87.6 percent of all deaths from cardiovascular disease in Andorra. Of the three, ischemic heart disease was the most deadly, followed by stroke. The mortality rate for the former has decreased by 11 percent since 1990; for the latter it has declined eight percent. The other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, on the other hand, kill fewer people, but their mortality rate has increased by 25 percent in little more than a generation.

Cancer
Tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer were the three most deadly cancers in 2013, followed by colorectal and prostate cancer. The rate of cancer deaths is on the rise in Andorra. The mortality rate for the respiratory-related cancers is up 18 percent since 1990; for colorectal cancer the increase is 19 percent. The mortality rate for prostate cancer has grown by an astonishing 48 percent since 1990.

Neurological Disorders
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders were the most deadly neurological disorders in Andorra in 2013. In 2013, 72.8 people out of every 100,000 were killed by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Since 1990, the mortality rate for these dementias has increased by 29 percent. Parkinson disease killed another 8.1 per 100,000; its mortality rate has climbed by 61 percent. The mortality rate for other neurological disorders is up 17 percent since 1990.

Even though non-communicable diseases are some of the major diseases in Andorra, the country, overall, is still relatively healthy. Andorra has some of the most technologically advanced hospitals in Europe. There are ten state-funded health centers in Andorra, which are staffed by nurses. They are responsible for first aid, antenatal and child care, nursing services, home and rehabilitation care, immunizations and general healthcare. Moreover, emergency care is free for everyone.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr


Pneumonia in India accounts for 20 percent of the deaths worldwide caused by pneumonia. Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection which affects the lungs. It causes difficulty in breathing and limits oxygen intake. It can be caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses and is a contagious disease.

Pneumonia symptoms include a cough, difficulty in breathing, fast breathing or wheezing. Infants may experience an inability to feed or drink, unconsciousness or convulsions, or worse. Pneumonia is the largest infectious cause of death among children in the world.

India has the highest number of deaths by pneumonia and diarrhea among children. Pneumonia in India in children under five is caused by malnutrition, low birth weight, non-exclusive breastfeeding, lack of measles immunization, indoor air pollution and overcrowding.

Pneumonia in India can be fatal to all, but is especially dangerous to young children. According to the  World Health Organization (WHO), one in three deaths in India is caused by pneumonia. Pneumonia in India is the leading cause of infant deaths. Every year almost 200,000 children under five die of pneumonia in India. On a global level, pneumonia kills around 900,000 children in the world every year.

In 2016, India managed to achieve improvement of 7 percentage points in the GAPPD score. The GAPPD score measures the use of interventions that protect, treat and prevent phenomena and diarrhea. India’s 2016 score was 41 percent, a major improvement achieved by improving exclusive breastfeeding rates and the Hib vaccine, but well short of its target score of 86 percent.

A new vaccine to protect children was introduced in India this year as part of the Universal Immunization Program. Called the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), this new vaccine will be available to children who need it, especially the underprivileged. Millions of children will receive the vaccine for free. The vaccine protects children from pneumococcal diseases like pneumonia and meningitis.

The aim of this vaccine is to reduce the death of children from pneumococcal pneumonia. “No child should die from the vaccine-preventable disease,” said the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in India.

To fight pneumonia, a threefold strategy needs to be incorporated:

  1. Protection: Exclusive breastfeeding for six months, vitamin A and zinc supplementation and adequate nutrition
  2. Prevention via vaccination: Pneumococcus, HIV Protection, promotion of washing and hygiene, reduction of indoor air pollution
  3. Treatment: improving care-seeking behavior, community case management and health facility case management

India has taken significant initiatives to fight against this disease. Through implementing this threefold strategy, overcoming pneumonia in India is hopeful.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr


Like many developing countries, Fiji falls short on providing basic healthcare to all citizens. Private healthcare is available, but many citizens must use the failing public system, which is superior in urban regions compared to those in rural areas. As a result, more rural residents are faced with prevalent illnesses. Based on a 2012 report by the World Health Organization, the following are the major diseases in Fiji:

  • Ischemic heart disease caused the greatest number of deaths in 2012. It killed 1,300 people and accounted for 21.8 percent of Fijian deaths.
  • Diabetes mellitus was the second leading cause of death, accounting for 16 percent of deaths nationwide and killing a total of 900 Fijians.
  • Stroke was third, killing 500 people, 8.3 percent of deaths.
  • Other killer diseases that are less common include lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis, kidney diseases and various cancers.

Although noncommunicable diseases cause the majority of deaths, likely due to their difficulty in treating, Fiji is still home to a number of communicable diseases. Together, these diseases accounted for approximately 18 percent of Fijian deaths in 2008. They include the following:

  • The Zika virus, commonly contracted through mosquito bites, is spreading throughout Fiji, with more and more cases reported. There is no current vaccine.
  • Dengue fever, also contracted through mosquito bites, has recently been declared an outbreak within Fiji. As with Zika, dengue fever does not have a current vaccine.
  • Tuberculosis is widely prevalent, especially to those living in rural areas where pollution is common and medical resources are limited.
  • Other common diseases include Hepatitis A and typhoid.

Through utilizing the aid provided by other nations, Fiji would benefit from taking radical measures to improve public healthcare. In doing so, these major diseases in Fiji could be limited or potentially eradicated with time, advancing the quality of life for the Fijian people.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr


Using soap is the simplest way of preventing the spread, contracting and infection of diseases. This luxury is only available and affordable in developed nations. Lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation and hygiene contribute to two leading causes of high child mortality in the poorest countries: pneumonia and diarrhea. The simple practice of washing hands with soap reduces this risk by 50 percent.

Because so many people who live in these countries do so on a dollar a day, soap is a luxury rather than a necessity. This leads to a higher risk of illnesses that might have been prevented by simple hygiene like washing hands. Because of its relatively high cost within many economies, Clean the World reports that 35 percent of health care facilities in impoverished countries lack soap.

Shawn Seipler, founder of Clean the World, learned that most of the barely used hotel soap bars ended up in landfills after guests check out. According to the Global Soap Project, the hotel industry in the U.S., which uses a third of the global soap supply, throws away an astonishing 2.6 million bars of soap on a daily basis.

Seipler chose to change this by recycling soap hotels were throwing away. He has dedicated his time and effort to recycling soap and sending it to developing countries for continued use. “The recycling, which ends up costing hotels just 75 cents per room a month, allows leftover soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner to be melted down, sterilized and formed into new soap that is sent all over the world.” Since Clean the World began in 2009, the organization has delivered 40 million bars of soap to more than 115 countries.

In 2015, Clean the World partnered with the Global Soap Project to increase production, delivery and outreach. Since the partnership formation, in addition to joining forces with contributions from 4,000-plus hotels, they have delivered 24 million bars of soap to 99 countries.

Seipler focuses his recycling efforts on bringing soap to schools within developing countries. The result of his recycling efforts might be an additional 1.9 billion school days. Clean the World is also working to provide soap to health care facilities and communities.

It is hopeful that the impact from the above projects will help improve not only health, but the overall quality of life in undeveloped nations.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr


It has long been known that drug addiction is often linked to poverty, but the specific influences are difficult to measure. An increasing number of countries are trying a novel approach to increasing the health of their citizens: by treating drug use as a mental health issue, not a crime. Recent statistics indicate that drug decriminalization makes people healthier.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, there is evidence that treating drug use as a crime does not result in fewer drug addicts. In fact, the opposite has been the case. In July 2001, Portugal enacted a national law explicitly decriminalizing the use of all drugs, even cocaine and heroin.

Though controversial, in the years since, drug use has actually decreased significantly across multiple age groups in several categories. Portugal’s rate of drug use is now among the lowest in the EU, and the drug-induced fatality rate has dropped to five times lower than average.

It is important to note the key difference between decriminalization and legalization, however. Using drugs is still prohibited in Portugal, as is drug trafficking and providing drugs to minors. The aim of the law was to transform public interpretation of personal drug use from a stigmatized crime to a public health issue.

“We are dealing with a chronic relapsing disease, and this is a disease like any other. I do not put a diabetic in jail, for instance,” said João Goulão, physician and National Drug Coordinator for Portugal.

The impact of this policy on global health boils down to economics. When comparing the cost of jail time to the cost of rehabilitation, it becomes clear that decriminalization makes people healthier. The city of Lisbon has experienced a 75 percent reduction in drug cases since the 1990s, and the rate of HIV infections nationwide since decriminalization took effect has dropped by over 80 percent.

“It’s cheaper to treat people than to incarcerate them,” sociologist Nuno Capaz told NPR earlier this month. “If I come across someone who wants my help, I’m in a much better position to provide it than a judge would ever be.”

Portugal’s policy has broken ground for similar experiments to be conducted in other countries. Canadian politicians have gone on record earlier this year in support of drug decriminalization, and Costa Rica has been working since 2014 on a version of a decriminalization bill that will be approved.

The proof that drug decriminalization makes people healthier has long-reaching implications, particularly in the U.S. where the incarceration rate is the highest in the world, and 80 percent of drug arrests are for possession only.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr


Public health midwives have been a part of Sri Lankan culture for nearly a century, but their role has recently evolved into a prominent one in the community. Midwives in Sri Lanka not only attend births, but now they also cover preventive health community services. Since approximately 72 percent of Sri Lankans live in rural areas, over 90 percent of public health midwives serve in rural communities, ensuring that typically neglected areas prone to high poverty rates still receive adequate health coverage.

Sri Lanka has committed itself to promoting gender equality. Absolute poverty rates, typically affecting females and children more than males, have been on the decline. As of 2013, 90 percent of Sri Lankan adult females are literate. One of the most impressive efforts to both alleviate poverty and promote the role of women in the community is the central role of midwives in Sri Lanka. The free provision of healthcare at all stages of life, coupled with the usage of traditional cultural practices, has allowed midwives to become respected, sought-after figures in communities. Midwives are viewed as trusted healthcare providers and provide medical guidance to both men and women. Midwives in Sri Lanka have also played a huge role in the high rate of attended births (98 percent) and the incredibly low maternal mortality rate (32 per 100,000 live births).

Improving maternal health has far-reaching effects due to the improvement of the quality of life for women. Access to education is improved. Girls now make up 50 percent of students in secondary education and have the opportunity to attend higher levels of education. Additionally, the focus on rural health by midwives in Sri Lanka is coupled with rural development efforts that have resulted in absolute poverty rates of less than 10 percent and improved access to safe drinking water and electricity.

New challenges are arising, such as a rise in noncommunicable diseases and low midwife recruitment numbers. However, adaptations are being made. Providing more educational opportunities for midwives, increasing their role in addressing public health issues like domestic violence, and offering more public sector employment incentives will be important moving forward. Midwives in Sri Lanka are not only an integral part of the healthcare system but also play an important part in promoting gender equality and opportunities for women.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr


The global AIDS epidemic continues to threaten women’s health. There has been significant worldwide progress in combating this outbreak, as evidenced by a U.N. report showing a 33 percent global reduction in newly diagnosed HIV infections from 2001 to 2012. However, development has been disproportionate for women, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

As the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV and AIDS reports, adolescent girls accounted for 64 percent of new HIV infections among youth globally in 2013. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa houses 80 percent of young women with HIV worldwide. Those aged 15 to 24 are nearly twice as likely to contract AIDS compared to their male counterparts.

Such statistics have a number of causes. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, especially through relationships that involve extramarital sex or little-to-no contraceptive use. Social norms, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, also impose barriers, as men have more dominance over women in relationships.

Lack of education, specifically sex education, also plays a role in women’s disproportionate diagnosis of HIV. A report by the U.N. demonstrated that out of 32 countries, “Women who had some level of secondary education were five times more likely than non-literate women to have knowledge of HIV.”

The probable leading cause of the AIDS epidemic affecting women comes from a lack of health services. Those who have insufficient access to HIV and reproductive health care treatments and support, are less likely to monitor their health and thereby reduce infection. This is the case in many African regions. Laws also introduce obstacles; for example, in 2014, nine countries reported regulations that inhibit girls from obtaining HIV-related services.

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, confirms: “This epidemic, unfortunately, remains an epidemic of women.” Fortunately, however, a number of organizations have made motions to counter the problem, beginning with UNAIDS itself. In 2015, it introduced a global initiative of reducing HIV infections to about half a million per year by 2020. This plan involves reducing new infections among women by a factor of 75 percent.

As the Human Rights Watch notes, such can be accomplished through legal reform, the implementation of health awareness programs, mandatory education measures and assistance from international NGOs. In order to combat the AIDS epidemic and its effect on women, serious action must continue worldwide.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Volunteering_health
A study from December 2016 indicated that the secret to humanity’s desire to live longer may not exist in pills, surgical treatments, lotions, fad diets or exhausting workouts. The research, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, indicates that simply helping others increases the probability of living longer. Although the study focuses on grandparents who give occasional care to children or grandchildren, it also discusses the health benefits gained by childless couples who provide support to other people.

The researchers state that the neural and hormonal system that is triggered during caregiving can positively impact health and reduce the mortality of the helper. They indicate that these benefits occur when applied to both relatives and non-relatives.

Good Vibes from Volunteering
This study’s findings are not unique. A 2013 review of 40 similar studies indicated that volunteering can reduce early mortality rates by a surprising 22 percent. Published in BMC Public Health, the review also indicated that when people volunteer, they feel good. This can reduce depression and increase contentment.

In a statement, lead author Dr. Suzanne Richards states, “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in health.”

We Can Do Better
However, the review indicates that our global community has room for improvement. Only 27 percent of Americans and 22 percent of Europeans volunteer their time. Australia is slightly more altruistic, with 36 percent of Australians performing community service.

Having a busy schedule doesn’t necessarily exclude someone from the benefits of community service, as it doesn’t take a major time commitment to reap the rewards. According to the review, just an hour of volunteer work per month is enough for participants to absorb those positive emotions and potentially live longer.

It’s likely that many people would be capable of finding a way to spare an hour a month to support causes that are important to them. Health and longevity may just depend on it.

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr

Day of the Girl ChildOn October 11, the U.N. celebrated its annual Day of the Girl Child, which focuses on advancing the status of girls worldwide by celebrating their potential when combating the forces that endanger and repress them, such as child marriage, education inequality and health issues.

Since its inception in 2011, the Day of the Girl Child centers on a different topic each year. In 2016, the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement,” emphasizes the use of technological advances to acquire comprehensive data on girls worldwide, their unique struggles and the forces that oppress them.

In an address at the U.N. headquarters on October 11, 2016, Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke on the importance of this movement: “Working with our partners, we are supporting countries to strengthen national capacity and systems to collect, analyse and disseminate gender data to improve statistics on priority issues for girls — including gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and reproductive health, informal employment, entrepreneurship, and unpaid work.”

Much of the U.N.’s efforts regarding the Day of the Girl Child centers on the practice of child, early and forced marriage, all of which remain prevalent issues in the world’s poorest countries.

Child marriage not only leaves psychological and physical scars that inhibit girls from personal fulfillment but also perpetuates cycles of poverty that trap families in situations with little or no education, economic disadvantages and poor health conditions.

Families often seek the temporary financial relief of a “bride price,” money given to them in exchange for marriage to their daughter. This practice, however, only continues the cyclical nature of poverty in their communities – it denies girls the opportunity for education, and ultimately, cripples new and developing families in the same way.

The other option — education for girls — helps to solve this long-term problem. A girl who has received just one additional year of primary education is 15 percent more likely to boost their future earnings, and this figure only increases with each additional year of education.

The U.N. has already made some advancements in the for fight for girls’ equality. After drawn-out and passionate lobbying in Malawi, the country passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act in 2015, which restricts the age of marriage without parental consent to 18.

Thanks to advancements in data collection, the lives of girls and women across the globe may now be much easier to improve. U.N. Women has continued to push for the end of child marriage, and thus, a step toward ending deeply entrenched poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. As U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri phrased it, “Humanity can’t afford to lose half of the world’s creativity, passion and work. When you invest in a girl everyone benefits.”

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Disease Prevalence
Viruses like Ebola and Zika might dominate the news, but for those living in poverty, disease prevalence of this type is anything but new.

Living in poverty is one of the key factors increasing someone’s risk of contracting an infectious disease. Though diseases like Ebola and Zika may hold prominence in the media at the moment, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Diarrhea, Malaria and others still remain firm in many parts of the world. HIV/AIDS alone infected 36.7 million people in 2015. In impoverished areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, almost 1 in every 25 people is HIV positive.

The areas where disease prevalence is high are also areas of extreme poverty. Communicable diseases impact a greater number of people when they are living in destitution, war zones or in other remote places without medical infrastructure. In addition, those with diseases in poor countries often face ostracization in their communities over the stigma of their illnesses.

Looking at this phenomenon in the 20th Century, the Zika Virus first emerged in Uganda and Tanzania in the 1950s. Ebola appeared in two simultaneous outbreaks in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. It isn’t mere coincidence infectious diseases emerge in these places. Large groups of people living together in poverty provide a breeding ground for new diseases.

The reasons for this phenomenon are simple, without access to healthcare, poor people who find themselves contracting a disease are forced to suffer through the infection unaided. In turn, those who come into contact with them risk contamination and if their living conditions lack basic sanitation or host crowded conditions, a disease can spread quickly.

Developed nations in Europe are already facing this problem as refugees, eager to escape war zones in the Middle East, bring their health problems with them. In Greece for example, refugees are grouped into crowded camps without access to health infrastructure in many cases.

Rather than trying to restrict the flow of people over increasingly porous international borders, developed nations would do better to address the source of the problem. By reducing poverty and helping to improve healthcare infrastructure in poor countries, developed nations can lessen the spread of infectious diseases around the world and prevent disease prevalence.

The World Health Organization recently announced it would be “scaling up its emergency response activities” for 800,000 individuals living in refugee camps in Northeast Nigeria. Refugees have fled recent fighting between the government and Boko Haram and now live in crowded conditions without healthcare.

The WHO’s response efforts in the country will focus on providing health services to refugees, but the situation is complicated by ongoing violence and starvation. The current level of response from the international community is not adequate to prevent new outbreaks in Nigeria and other depressed regions.

Enclaves of poverty like the refugee camps in Nigeria present a viable threat to the health of the world. While the WHO’s response to the crisis is commendable, more is needed to reduce the possibility of new viruses developing before new outbreaks occur.

By simply supporting programs aimed at reducing malnutrition in poor countries, officials hope the health outcomes of those living there can be improved exponentially.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr