10 facts on the state of global health

1. Life expectancy at birth increased globally by 6 years since 1990

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A baby born in 2012 could expect to live to 70 years on average –62 years in low-income countries to 79 years in high-income countries. Life expectancy at birth is based on the death rates across all age groups in a population in a given year – children and adolescents, adults and the elderly.

2. Around 6.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year

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Almost all of these children’s lives could be saved if they had access to simple and affordable interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding, inexpensive vaccines and medication, clean water and sanitation. WHO is working with governments and partners worldwide to deliver integrated, effective care and strengthen health systems, both of which are crucial to saving children’s lives.

3. Preterm birth is the leading killer of newborn babies worldwide

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Every year 15 million babies – about 1 in 10 babies – are born preterm (born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Preterm birth complications cause more than one million deaths each year. More than three quarters of these babies’ lives could be saved with simple and cost-effective care.

4. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the world

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Around 3 in 10 deaths globally are caused by cardiovascular diseases – diseases of the heart and blood vessels that can cause heart attacks and stroke. At least 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases could be prevented through a healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding the use of tobacco.

5. Most HIV/AIDS deaths occur in Africa

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Around 70% of all HIV/AIDS deaths in 2012 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, the number of people dying from AIDS-related causes is steadily decreasing from a peak of 2.3 million deaths in 2005 to an estimated 1.6 million in 2012. HIV testing and counselling uptake has improved and access to antiretroviral therapy has increased, however many people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries still do not know their HIV status.

6. Every day, about 800 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth

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Maternal mortality is a health indicator that shows very wide gaps between rich and poor, both between countries and within them. WHO works to improve maternal health by assisting countries to improve care before, during and after childbirth.

7. Mental health disorders such as depression are among the 20 leading causes of disability worldwide

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Depression affects around 300 million people worldwide and this number is projected to increase. Fewer than half of those people affected have access to adequate treatment and health care.

8. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year

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More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than 8 million by 2030.

9. Almost 1 in 10 adults has diabetes

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Almost 10% of the world’s adult population has diabetes, measured by elevated fasting blood glucose (≥126 mg/dl). People with diabetes have increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Deaths due to diabetes have been increasing since the year 2000, reaching 1.5 million deaths in 2012.

10. Nearly 3500 people die from road traffic crashes every day

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Road traffic injuries are projected to rise as vehicle ownership increases due to economic growth in developing countries. Strong action to improve road-use policies and enforce road-safety laws is needed to avert this rise in injuries and deaths.