Health is about your overall well-being and encompasses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of your life. It is influenced by factors such as poverty, access to education, the quality of your environment, healthcare and family and social networks. There are huge global inequalities in relation to people’s experience of health. For example nearly one in six children in sub-Saharan Africa die before their fifth birthday, compared with one in 150 in richer countries. Two thirds of these children die of preventable diseases such as diarrhoea or malaria.
Gladys is nineteen and lives in southern Ghana. She is pregnant with her first child. The local clinic closed down due to a lack of trained staff so she will rely on her family when she is due to give birth. A neighbour of her died last year while giving birth and Gladys is scared. She doesn’t think it’s fair that a woman in Ghana is 100 times more likely to die during childbirth in Ghana compared to women in a country like Ireland. Pregnancy and childbirth are still the leading causes of death and disease in women of childbearing age in developing countries.
90% of people living with HIV live in the Developing World. 10 million young people are now living with HIV and AIDS. However poverty, lack of education and a lack of access to anti-retroviral drugs and quality medical care means that they are far more likely to die young from the disease compared with people in rich countries. The HIV pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa means that schools have shut down, children have to leave school to care for parents or relatives, or to work. Stigma and discrimination against people with HIV is one of the greatest barriers to dealing effectively with the epidemic, discouraging governments from taking action against HIV and AIDS, and deterring people from being tested or accessing services. However young people in the Developing World play a major role in educating other young people about AIDS and in providing support to those living with the disease.
World Health Day
Each year on April 7th World Health Day is observed to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948. This year’s theme, “Good health adds life to years”, conveys the message that promoting good health throughout life improves the chances of remaining healthy and productive in later years. The photo on our homepage is from ‘HelpAge International/Wang Jing’ from the WHO campaign available here: http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2012/photo_story/en/index.html
By 2050, there will be almost 400 million people aged 80 years or older. For the first time in history, the world will have more adults aged 65 or older than children under five. These developments are linked to economic and social development and global public health successes in improving childhood survival and adult health. Older people make many valuable contributions to society – as family members, active participants in the workforce, and as volunteers within communities. However, more older people means an increased demand on health care and social security systems.
The greatest health threat for older people is from diseases like heart disease and stroke, with visual impairment and dementia the biggest causes of disability. In low-income countries, the incidence of these diseases among older people is two to three times greater than in high-income countries. These countries struggle to deal with existing needs, let alone to cope with the greater demands expected in the future.
The good news is that there are many practical and affordable solutions that governments can put in place to help their older citizens to lead healthy and active lives. Countries that invest in healthy ageing can expect a significant social and economic return for the whole community.