Expert Commentary

World Health Organization: World Health Statistics 2011

2011 report from the World Health Organization on progress in meeting the U.N.'s health-related Millennium Development Goals.

At the 2000 United Nations Summit a plan was developed to combat problems facing the world’s most impoverished populations. The plan was based on eight major objectives, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the World Health Organization (WHO), part of the U.N., was responsible for coordinating efforts on the health-related objectives.

The WHO’s report “World Health Statistics 2011” identifies nine indicators for assessing progress: life expectancy and mortality; cause-specific mortality and morbidity; infectious diseases; health service coverage; risk factors; health workforce, infrastructure and essential medicines; health expenditure; health inequities; and demographic and socioeconomic statistics.

The report’s findings include:

  • According to estimates, the percentage of underweight children under 5 years old declined, from 25% in 1990 to 16% in 2010. However, some 115 million such children remain underweight and 178 million of all children (under 18) exhibit stunted growth.
  • While overall child mortality rates fell globally by a third over the last 20 years — from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009 — the rate of deaths for children actually rose over the same time period on the African continent and among other of the lowest-income countries.
  • The two most common causes of child mortality are pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, both of which remain easily treatable if a child has access to health care.
  • Over the past 20 years, global measles immunization rose by 9%, putting the current overall figure at 82%.
  • Maternal mortality rate decreased at an average annual rate of 2.3%; however, this is only half of the necessary rate to achieve the 2015 target. 99% of maternal deaths occurred in developing countries.
  • The percentage of the world’s population with access to clean drinking water increased from 77% to 87%. That puts the U.N. on track to achieve the goal of halving the percentage of those without access by 2015. Progress is lagging, though, on goals for improving issues relating to  toilets and sanitation.
  • In more than 40 low- and middle-income countries, basic generic medicines were only available in 42% of public health centers. This forces patients to buy generic medicines from private providers; those cost on average 630% more than the international reference price.

Tags: children, water

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