World Health Statistics 2012: Story of Progress, Ongoing Need

World Health Statistics 2012: Story of Progress, Ongoing Need

Togolese health hut. {Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.}Photo credit: S.Holtz/Peace Corps.

The World Health Statistics 2012 report released this year reveals a mixed bag of amazing progress and underachievement.

The report --- the World Health Organization's (WHO) annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States --- includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.

Countries have achieved amazing success in some areas and little or no progress in others. Here are some highlights:

  • The under-five mortality rate decreased by 35% between 1990 and 2010, but the annual rate of decline in sub-Saharan Africa --- where nearly half of the child deaths occur --- actually increased; most countries in the region will not achieve the MDG by 2015.
  • Measles deaths decreased by 74% between 2000 and 2010.
  • The estimated number of maternal deaths plummeted between 1990 and 2010, but the rate of decline is not great enough to achieve MDG 5, and the countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios in 1990 have made the least progress.
  • The world saw 15% fewer persons newly infected with HIV in 2010 compared to 2000, but an unacceptable number of persons are living with HIV: 34 million in 2010.
  • Access to medicines continues to plague lower and middle income countries: availability of generic medicines from the essential medicines list is poor and availability of medicines for chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is even poorer, often leading persons to go bankrupt due to the high price of these medicines in the private sector

This year, the World Health Statistics report also includes summaries about chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), universal health coverage and civil registration coverage.

Chronic NCDs, which include conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, are a major health challenge of the 21st century, particularly in low and middle income countries. Here are some alarming statistics:

  • Of all the deaths globally in 2008, 63% were due to chronic NCDs.
  • The number and proportion of deaths to chronic NCDs will continue to increase.
  • Persons in developing countries suffered 80% of all chronic NCD deaths in 2008.
  • Contrary to popular belief, persons under age 70 in developing countries suffer 48% of chronic NCDs.

MSH prioritizes chronic NCDs as a key condition for present and future attention.

Guided by the overarching principles of universal health coverage and health systems strengthening, MSH integrates and mainstreams delivery of chronic NCD services into primary health care.

For example, in the Strengthening TB and AIDS Response – Eastern Region (STAR-E) project in eastern Uganda, health providers screen women living with HIV for cervical and breast cancer as part of their routine care. To date, nearly 500 Ugandan women with HIV have benefited from this screening service. MSH hopes to scale up this project in Uganda and expand it to other countries where we currently provide services to women living with HIV.

As we work to achieve the MDGs, we must also integrate services to lessen the burden of chronic NCDs.

Sara A. Holtz, DrPH, MPH, is senior technical officer at Management Sciences for Health.