Indicators of Health in International Development

Health is a crucial indicator of development – The International Aid community believe that health is the most important thing to spend money on – with more than 90% of the aid budget being spent in this area.

There are four basic measurements of health in development

  • Life Expectancy – The average number of years people are expected to live in a country (which if you remember makes up one of the three indicators of the Human Development Index).
  • Child Mortality – The number of children which die before their first birthday (measured per thousand).
  • Maternal Health – The number of women who die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Disease indicators – The proportion of the population that has AIDS, Malaria, diarrheal and other infectious diseases.

On all of the above four ‘indicators of health’, things are considerably worse in lower income countries than higher income ones.

  1. Life Expectancy – in the UK average life-expectancy is 81.5 years (some commentators would expect this to go down as the effect of Tory policies leads to increasing inequality and worse health care with the NHS privatisation.), while in At the other end of the scale, life expectancy is still less than 55 years in nine sub-Saharan African countries – including The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
  2. Child Mortality – In Low income countries – 40% of those dying in any one year are children aged 0-15. In high income countries, only 1% of deaths are among people between 0-15 years of age. (Source – World Health Organization)

Reducing Child Mortality is Millennium Development Goal  4and the latest MDG report says –

The highest levels of under-five mortality continue  to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in  eight children die before the age of five (129 deaths  per 1,000 live births), nearly twice the average in  developing regions overall and around 18 times the  average in developed regions. With rapid progress in other regions, the disparities between them and sub-Saharan Africa have widened. Southern Asia has the second highest rate—69 deaths per 1,000 live births or about one child in 14.

countries highest infant mortality 2016

Countries with the highest infant mortality rate, 2016

  1. Maternal Health – Improving Maternal Health is Millennium Development Goal 5

As with child mortality, maternal deaths are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, which together account for around 85% of such deaths globally. A crucial factor in explaining maternal deaths (and improving this is part of MDG5 is that less than half of women giving birth are attended by a health care professional – in sub Saharan Africa – 64% of women, compared to 28% in Asian and less than 2% in the developed world.

  1. Disease indicators

Millennium Development Goal 6 is to Combat AIDS, HIV, Malaria and other diseases

In 2013, 35 million people were living with the AIDS virus— nearly a 30 per cent increase over 1999. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most heavily affected region, accounting for around 70 per cent of new HIV infections, people living with HIV and AIDS deaths.

According to a 2015 World Health Organisation report, Malaria death rates have plunged by 60% since 2000, translating into 6.2 million lives saved.

“Global malaria control is one of the great public health success stories of the past 15 years,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “It’s a sign that our strategies are on target, and that we can beat this ancient killer, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly children, each year.”

Despite tremendous progress, malaria remains an acute public health problem in many regions. In 2015 alone, there were an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, and approximately 438 000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease. About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria.

Some countries continue to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. Fifteen countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, accounted for 80% of malaria cases and 78% of deaths globally in 2015.

In developing countries, the main causes of death are

  1. Lower respiratory infections11.3%
  2. Diarrheal diseases8.2%
  3. HIV/AIDS7.8%
  4. Heart disease 6.1%
  5. Malaria 5.2%
  6. Tuberculosis 4.3%
  7. Prematurity and low birth weight 3.2%
  8. Birth asphyxia and birth trauma 2.9%
  9. Neonatal infections 2.6%

Many of the above diseases are ‘infectious diseases’ (aka ‘communicable’ diseases) – they are typically spread through either sharing bodily fluids or by parasites – often picked up from coming into contact with dirty water or raw sewage.

Relating back to the previous ‘health indicator’, the last three on the list are ‘maternal health issues’ and relate to either very young children or mothers dying in childbirth – if you add up the three figures then you get a figure of 9% of deaths due to poor maternal health).

 

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