Thanks to public health campaigns, world poverty is on the decline, but there is still more to be done, the New York Times reports. A group of researchers and doctors from around the globe weighed in on recent progress over the past few years and shared suggestions for establishing global health and well-being.
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For starters, there has been a drop in the child mortality rate for kids under 5, according to Harvard physician Ashish Jha. Respiratory diseases like pneumonia, however, continue to be the leading cause of death of children under 5, global public health professor, Devi Sridhar explained. Sridhar said infectious disease prevention and treatment could improve, which would save millions of lives each year.
Dr. Jha highlighted some other wins — the number of women who die during childbirth has halved since 1990 in parts of the world, there has been a decrease in deaths from malaria, a turnaround in the H.I.V. epidemic, and life expectancy has increased in every country. He attributes the progress to science research funding that has led to new treatments and medications.
To keep moving in the right direction will take a lot of work, the scientists say.. Putting emergency response organizations in place to contain outbreaks is crucial, according to physician Peter Piot. Dr. Jha also noted how important it is to invest in girls’ education.
“Beyond its big effects on economic prosperity, it also leads to smaller family sizes, lower infant mortality, more stable families and communities, and likely lower levels of disease burdens like H.I.V.,” he explained.
Improving health care systems can also make all the difference in health outcomes. Inadequate places of care can cause more harm than good and rarely treat patients efficiently. Antibiotic overuse and abuse is also a widespread problem. Dr. Sridhar said there must be a collective effort to manage drug-resistant infections as well.
Smoking is another major public health concern that still needs to be dealt with. While smoking in the US is down, tobacco companies are targeting developing countries instead, according to Dr. Piot.
Moving forward requires looking at how health trends spread. For instance, it turns out wealthy countries might be harming developing countries when it comes nutrition. Dr. Piot said there needs to be more action to tackle the obesity and diabetes epidemic. In another report, The New York Times found nutritionists in developing countries take money from major food corporations who help popularize the American eating style, promoting obesity.
The experts emphasized that accountability is key, and Western countries need to pull their weight. The US is harming itself by not investing enough in public health to prevent disease and death, according to an earlier New York Times report. Dr. Jha said the West needs to give more funding to help develop drugs and disease testing in low-income countries, and training health care workers abroad should also be on the top of the list. These investments will do more than reduce mortality rates in low-income countries, they’ll also preemptively slow the spread of future epidemics.