Monday, July 22, 2013

Top Killers Are Largely Preventable

The 10 leading causes of death in the world, 2000 and 2011

Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS have remained the top major killers during the past decade.

Tuberculosis is no longer among the 10 leading causes of death, but is still among the top 15, killing one million people in 2011.

Why do we need to know the reasons people die?

Measuring how many people die each year and why they died is one of the most important means – along with gauging how diseases and injuries are affecting people – for assessing the effectiveness of a country’s health system. Cause-of-death statistics help health authorities determine their focus for public health actions. A country where deaths from heart disease and diabetes rapidly rise over a period of a few years, for example, has a strong interest in starting a vigorous programme to encourage lifestyles to help prevent these illnesses. Similarly, if a country recognizes that many children are dying of malaria, but only a small portion of the health budget is dedicated to providing effective treatment, it can increase spending in this area.

High-income countries have systems in place for collecting information on causes of death in the population. Many low- and middle-income countries do not have such systems, and the numbers of deaths from specific causes have to be estimated from incomplete data. Improvements in producing high quality cause-of-death data are crucial for improving health and reducing preventable deaths in these countries.

Q: How many young children die each year, and why?

In 2011, 6.9 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday; almost all (99%) of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The major killers of children aged less than five years were pneumonia, prematurity, birth asphyxia and birth trauma, and diarrhoeal diseases. Malaria was still a major killer in sub-Saharan Africa, causing about 14% of under-five deaths in the region.

About 43% of deaths in children younger than 5 years in 2011 occurred within 28 days of birth – the neonatal period. The most important cause of death was prematurity, which was responsible for one-third of all deaths during this period.

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