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Life Expectancy in Kiribati

Kiribati is a small, low-lying island nation straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The nation is comprised of three archipelagoes, scattered in an area roughly the size of India. Often overlooked globally, the Kiribati people have faced a number of challenges especially since gaining independence in 1979. This struggle is illuminated by these nine facts about life expectancy in Kiribati.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Kiribati

  1. Kiribati ranks 174th in the world in terms of life expectancy, with the average life lasting only 66.9 years. The country ranks last in life expectancy out of the 20 nations located in the Oceania region of the Pacific.
  2. The lives of Kiribati women last approximately 5.2 years longer than their male counterparts, with female life expectancy standing at 69.5 years and the male life expectancy at 64.3 years.
  3. The entire nation’s population is the same as the population of about 4 percent of the borough of Brooklyn, with roughly 110,000 citizens. Even with such a small population, Kiribati faces serious issues relating to overcrowding. The Western Gilbert Islands (one of the three archipelagoes comprising Kiribati) boasts some of the highest population densities on earth, rivaling cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong. This overcrowding causes great amounts of pollution, worsening the quality and length of life for the Kiribati people.
  4. Due to underdeveloped sanitation and water filtration systems, only about 66 percent of those living in Kiribati have access to clean water. Waterborne diseases are at record levels throughout the country. Poor sanitation has led to an increase in cases of diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, rotavirus and fungal infections.
  5. Around 61.5 percent of Kiribati citizens smoke tobacco products on a regular basis. There are more smokers per capita in Kiribati than in any other country in the South Pacific. Due to this and other lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, there has been a drastic spike in lower limb amputations on the islands, doubling from 2011 to 2014.
  6. Suicide is on the rise. The number of self-harm related deaths increased by 14.4 percent from 2007 to 2017.  Climate change is suspected to play a large role in the growth of this troublesome statistic. With sea levels rising, the people of Kiribati deal with the daily fear that, even if only a small storm were to hit the island, the entire nation could be submerged into the Pacific. Such a foreboding possibility weighs heavily on the Kiribati people.
  7. Sexual violence is at a high in Kiribati, especially in regards to sexual violence between spouses. According to a 2010 study, approximately 68 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse, or a combination of the two, from an intimate partner. Sexual violence towards children and adolescents is also expected to be prevalent, however, statistics are lacking in regards to children under 15.
  8. Kiribati is a young country, with a median age of 25. In most countries with relatively young median ages, women have a large number of children. This is not the case in Kiribati, where the average woman has 2.34 children. This can be viewed as a positive for the nation’s future, for when women have fewer children, the life expectancy typically experiences an increase.
  9. The Health Ministry Strategic Plan (HMSP) plans to raise both the quality and quantity of health care facilities in the country. The Ministry’s goal is to maintain a minimum of 40 trained health care professionals for every 10,000 people and to have at least 80 percent of medicines and commodities that have been deemed essential, available at all times.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr


Three of the most major diseases in Lebanon are coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension, according to World Life Expectancy data. These ranked first, second and ninth, respectively. All three diseases are types of cardiovascular diseases, meaning that they affect the heart and blood vessels.

Coronary heart disease is defined as the buildup of plaque over time within the arteries. This plaque can rupture and cause blood clots, or it can weaken the arteries so much that it prevents oxygen from flowing through the blood to the heart, causing a heart attack. A stroke occurs with the interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain, which may result in the death of brain tissue. Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the heart pumps so much blood that too-thin artery walls cannot properly manage it. This can lead to heart disease or stroke if left untreated, as it weakens heart muscles.

Although cardiovascular diseases account for 31 percent of worldwide deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO), these same diseases cause 47 percent of all deaths in Lebanon. According to World Life Expectancy, hypertension leads to 2.89 percent of deaths in Lebanon, while strokes cause 10.43 percent. Coronary heart disease itself results in 34.41 percent of all deaths in Lebanon.

One of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease is smoking, which damages blood vessels and other structures of the heart. According to World Life Expectancy data, Lebanon ranks eighth in the world for smoking, which puts its residents at greater risk for developing the major diseases in Lebanon.

The good news is that, in 2014, the Lebanese government partnered with the WHO and began working to prevent smoking in the country. Together they created laws against smoking in public places such as universities, restaurants and hospitals and established a fine for breaking these laws. According to the WHO, Lebanon also removed tobacco advertisements, put warning labels on packages and began a recovery program for smokers to help combat smoking and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr


Italy attracts thousands of tourists because of its food, history and beautiful coastlines. However, the diseases that Italians are prone to are often overlooked. In 2012, certain diseases resulted in 613,520 deaths in Italy. Here is a quick overview of the top diseases that Italians are prone to.

  1. Heart Diseases. Ischemic heart disease took the lives of 75,098 Italians in 2012. Other types of heart diseases killed 48,384 Italians in 2012. In general, heart conditions accounted for 30 percent of all deaths in Italy that year. Symptoms of ischemic heart disease include recurrent chest pain and discomfort due to a lack of blood flow to the heart.  Ischemic heart disease develops when cholesterol particles accumulate on artery walls that supply blood to the heart. Eventually, the arteries become clogged, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.
  2. Cerebrovascular Diseases. Cerebrovascular diseases have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Italians. Cerebrovascular diseases refer to all disorders in a specific area of the brain that is impacted by ischemia or bleeding. Strokes and aneurysms are common examples of cerebrovascular diseases.
  3. Cancer. Trachea, bronchus and lung cancer killed 33,538 Italians in 2012. Such cancers were the second causing cause of death for men in that year. Each of these cancers impacts the lungs and throat area of the body and are caused by smoking.

The most common diseases in Italy generally result from poor lifestyle decisions, such as lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. The top diseases in the country can be prevented if Italians commit to making simple lifestyle changes. Proper lifestyle choices can help decrease the prevalence of such diseases and can allow many Italians to enjoy their beautiful country and culture for longer periods of time.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Kiribati
Kiribati is stricken with a hefty mix of diseases that are communicable and non-communicable. The top diseases in Kiribati resulting in death are circulatory, parasitic, nutritional and metabolic disorders. The leading causes of health complications are fungal, respiratory and diarrheal infections.

Life expectancy in Kiribati is the second lowest in the Pacific, with females at 69 years and males at 64 years. Factors contributing to Kiribati’s increased burden of disease are overcrowding, poor hygiene, inadequate sanitation, insufficient immunization coverage, as well as a lack of care and supplies for maternal/neonatal health.

Water-borne illnesses are among the top diseases in Kiribati. The primary infections being diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, rotavirus, giardia and fungal. These diseases are most threatening to children, causing 60 deaths per 1,000 live births in children under five.

The prevalence of water-borne illness plagues Kiribati mostly due to sanitation issues. Unfortunately, unsafe water is only part of the problem, improper food handling and the continued sale and consumption of expired foods only adds to the cycle of parasitic diseases.

Once a contagious disease has planted itself on the island, it becomes hard to contain because of the high density living arrangements of most communities. For example, Kiribati is one of only four countries in the world that still has leprosy, the number of contraction reaching 180 last year in 2015.

Tuberculosis (TB) is another top disease in Kiribati. TB remains rampant in Kiribati because it is easily spread and can remain dormant for long periods of time. However, disease begets disease. A burdened immune system makes it harder to prevent and treat other diseases. Not surprisingly, the magnitude of diabetes in Kiribati contributes largely to the continued occurrence of TB.

Lifestyle choices, or ignorance of health, feeds the expansion of diabetes, making it one of the top diseases in Kiribati. The majority of I-Kiribati fit into a profile at high risk for diabetes: high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and smoking. Already, 25 percent of the adult population is receiving treatment for diabetes or pre-diabetes, with numbers growing each year.

Smoking and diabetes are a deadly combination progressing towards a failing circulatory system, resulting in limb amputation and other disabilities. The rate of amputation in Kiribati is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2014, there were 136 amputations, nearly doubling that of the previous year.

Tobacco consumption is a risk factor for diabetes, but smoking also carries its own army of diseases such as respiratory infections, stroke, cancers and circulatory problems. Kiribati’s tobacco consumption is the highest in the South Pacific as 61.5 percent of its population smoke.

Like with combating most diseases, the key to success in ending the cycle of disease in Kiribati is awareness and prevention. The government of Kiribati, along with support from the World Health Organization have implemented plans to heighten the awareness of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

The goals for these programs are to reinforce good hygiene, improve water sanitation services, increase standard immunizations, educate citizens on the harmful effects of smoking, as well as informing them on the benefits of exercise and good nutrition. As awareness spreads and prevention occurs, there will be a decline in top diseases in Kiribati.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

smoking
According to a study by The Population Health Metrics, people living in poor neighborhoods are more prone to smoke at higher rates than those living in wealthier communities. An estimated 25% of adults with less than 12 years of education smoke cigarettes.

One survey shows that most people living in poverty want to quit smoking, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as “just quitting”.

Tobacco companies have been proven to promote smoking in lower income communities by lowering the price of cigarettes and flooding the neighborhoods with cigarette advertisements. In some cities, like Philadelphia, one can buy cigarettes for about $5 without tax.

The director of policy and planning for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Giridhar Mallya, stated that those living in poverty smoke to comfort his or her depression and stress.

For some, smoking is not just a coping method, but also a survival method. Lindell Harvey of Crum Lynne, Delaware smokes when he has run out of food.

Smoking enables the body to fend off the feeling of hunger. In Camden, New Jersey, 51-year-old Elaine Styles, a day-care worker who was laid-off, smokes so she doesn’t feel like she has to eat, “I make sure my family eats, then I have a loosie and go to bed.” A loosie is a single cigarette sold for about 50 cents.

Many wonder though, how do people living in poverty afford such an expensive habit? Buying cigarettes in low-income neighborhoods costs an estimated $1,000 a year with approximately 14% of income spent on cigarettes a year.

Nicotine triggers the part of the brain stem that causes one to feel comfort and safety. There are reasons behind the addiction that make sense once the dynamics of poverty are taken into account: the hopelessness of feeling trapped and the “limited sense of having a future,” says Elijah Anders, a Yale University sociologist.

There is hope for the future, though. Rates of smoking have dropped about seven percent between 2004 and 2012, with lower rates of teen smoking and a decline in adult smoking.

With more focus on poverty issues, the numbers are expected to steadily drop within the next few years.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: CNN, CDC, Philly
Photo: Blogspot

e-cigarettes
Since 1982, the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) has grown to be the world’s largest tobacco company, contributing almost 10 percent of total tax revenue to the central government. The state-backed monopoly has remained stubborn to reform in the wake of the roughly one million smoking-related deaths the country sees each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a statement saying that China needs to take a firmer stance against its giant tobacco industry if it hopes to reduce these numbers.

China has the world’s largest tobacco consumer base, home to more than 300 million smokers. In 2012, the CNTC had an annual net income of $18.6 billion, in contrast to the American-owned company, Phillip Morris International, with an annual net income of $8.57 billion.

So how do we tackle a multi-billion dollar monopoly?

The biggest problem is that the government itself is in the business. This creates a strong conflict of interest, which is proving difficult in weeding out the destructive habit.

In recent months, China has adopted several anti-tobacco measures, including banning government officials from smoking in public areas and banning smoking in schools. However, the tobacco monopoly has managed to continuously oppose reforms such as raising cigarette prices and using stronger health warnings on cigarette packs.

It seems that all hope is not lost.

A pair of tobacco industry manufacturers from southern China launched a joint venture on February 25 aimed at tackling the tobacco monopoly once and for all.

The collaboration between FirstUnion Technology, the world’s largest e-cigarette producer, and Jinjia, China’s biggest maker of cigarette packaging products, is an entrepreneurial match made in heaven. Both companies have achieved massive success in the southern city of Shenzhen and hope to rise among the ranks by manufacturing China’s first mass-market e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes first entered the Chinese market in 2004 and have since been exported to major markets worldwide.

Their significance?

They have become the new alternative for tobacco smokers who want to avoid inhaling smoke. Also known as electronic cigarettes, or vaporizer cigarettes, they emit doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine vaporized solution, that is inhaled. E-cigarettes have been found to have comparable rates of success in helping smokers quit as nicotine patches.

Overall, this is good news for China, but bad news for the tobacco monopoly.

The partnership between the two Chinese companies is receiving a start-up investment of just over $16 million, but they might need support from the central government if they hope to succeed.

– Mollie O’Brien

Sources: The Street, Medical News Today
Photo: Carbonated