HEALTHCAREInvestments in a Divided World

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In poorer nations, where children can die at an alarming rate, there is a focus on reducing or eradicating diseases and conditions that kill children under age five years old: malnutrition, poor sanitation, unsafe water and insect-borne disease.

In short, when it comes to medical issues, wealthy nations are focused on late life, poorer nations on early life.

Age Spectrum

In terms of life-expectancy, economically developed regions had the highest rate in 2010, with North Americans clocking in at 78 years and Western Europeans managing about 2 years more. The average in some developing areas such as Asia was 70 years. In Africa, 56 years was average.

These differences in life span reflect, and are mirrored in, several long-term trends. In the United States, with the sizeable baby boomer cohort not only aging as a group but also living longer, the American healthcare system is shifting more focus to age-related diseases and is dealing with a rising need for eldercare.

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A contributor to Africa’s low average life-expectancy rates is the continent’s high child­hood-mortality rate.

Childhood
Mortality Rates

A contributor to Africa’s low average life-expectancy rates is the continent’s high childhood-mortality rate. Between 1990 and 2012, the global average for deaths of children under age five years old fell by about half, yet in Africa the rate declined by just 15%. The World Health Organization estimates that the risk of a child dying before age five is about 95 per 1,000 live births in Africa compared with 12 per 1,000 live births in Europe.2

2World Health Organization: “Under-five mortality data by WHO Region, 2012.”

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Many areas must rely on zero-power alternatives to save lives: better access to clean water, hanging mosquito netting or installing a working toilet.

Treatment

Americans have access to MRI and CAT scans, drug regimens, wellness programs, robot-assisted surgery, genome sequencing and biopharmaceuticals. In the developing world, although some wealthier nations do offer some modern options (China, for one), most countries have very limited options.

In some cases the use of even the most basic medical equipment can be limited because of a lack of reliable power sources. Only a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa has a consistent supply of electricity, according to the World Bank, and just 40% in other poor countries have reliable power. Many areas must rely on zero-power alternatives to save lives: better access to clean water, hanging mosquito netting or installing a working toilet.

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As economies improve in developing countries, more than 60 million people are moving into cities every year, and many live in slums with few if any toilets.

Water

More than 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases every year, according to a 2008 report by the World Health Organization. Almost all these deaths occur in the developing world, and a significant portion of the victims are under age five.

As economies improve in developing countries, more than 60 million people are moving into cities every year, and many live in slums with few if any toilets, according to data reported by the United Nations in 2008. As climate changunde progresses, there may be more bouts of volatile weather, water shortages or floods that can spread harmful microorganisms are likely to worsen, all of which can complicating the water and sanitation picture.

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Regardless of which nation you live in, when people move less and eat more they tend to pack on the pounds.

Obesity

Obesity is often viewed as primarily a U.S. problem, but that no longer seems to be the case. Yes, Americans are still the heaviest bunch, with 160 million overweight or obese; yet about one-third (30%) of the global population, or 2.1 billion people, is in the same boat.3

Why is this happening? As developing economies strengthen, they begin to emulate the diets of Western nations. Wages rise; more people can own vehicles and TVs and consume more calorie- and protein-intensive foods such as meat. Regardless which nation they live in, when people move less and eat more they tend to pack on the pounds.

3The Lancet: “Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.”

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Almost a quarter of the population (24.8%) of Sub-Saharan Africa goes hungry at any one time.

Inadequate Food

Even as obesity is spreading, 842 million people — that’s about one in eight on the planet — do not have enough to eat, according to the World Food Programme. Almost a quarter of the population (24.8%) of Sub-Saharan Africa goes hungry at any one time. Malnutrition causes 45% of deaths among children under age five across the globe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects that by 2050, population and economic growth will result in a doubling of today’s global demand for food.

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By 2020 climate change could halve crop yields in some countries, leaving millions more going hungry or undernourished.

Climate Change

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released this year, paints a dire picture. Sea levels could rise three feet by the end of the century (other, more recent reports put the rise far higher); and the incidence of extreme weather conditions, including droughts and floods, is likely to worsen. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), by 2020 climate change could halve crop yields in some countries, leaving millions more going hungry or undernourished.

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The population could top 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion within 50 years.

Demographics

The global population was stable at about 3 million people by some estimates until about 13,000 years ago when humans started farming. It has grown a little since then. There were 5.32 billion people in 1990 and 7.08 billion in 2012, according to the latest United Nations figures, and the population could top 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion within 50 years. With more people, food and water resources that are already stressed will be put under additional pressure.

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