WHO identifies five major causes of premature death

Targeting the five major causes of premature death could increase global life expectancy by almost five years, the WHO said Tuesday, Reuters reports. According to a WHO's Global Health Risks report, which looked at 24 major health risks, "[p]oor childhood nutrition, unsafe sex, alcohol, bad sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure are to blame for around a quarter of the 60 million premature deaths around the world each year," the news service writes.

"The poorest countries still face a high and concentrated burden from poverty, undernutrition, unsafe sex, unsafe water and sanitation," the report said. "The report warned that although some major health risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and being overweight, were usually associated with high-income countries, more than three-quarters of the total global burden of diseases they cause now occurs in poor and developing countries," Reuters writes (Kelland, 10/27).

In addition, "[Colin] Mathers [author of the Global Health Risks report, explained] underdeveloped countries are less able to treat chronic diseases among a population that is now living longer," ABC News reports (Macey, 10/28).

"Understanding the relative importance of health risk factors helps governments to figure out which health policies they want to pursue," Mathers said, U.N. News Centre reports. "Countries can combine this type of evidence along with information about policies and their costs to decide how to set their health agenda" (10/27).

VOA News features additional analysis of the report by WHO Technical Officer Gretchen Stevens (Schlein, 10/27). Reuters includes a factbox of the leading causes of premature death worldwide (10/27). WA Today examines concern among health experts that deaths from obesity and tobacco use are outpacing deaths from hunger and infectious disease (Rose, 10/27).


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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