WHO: People living longer, healthier lives – but then, COVID-19 happened

Image via Pixabay
  • The World Health Organization said people around the globe are living longer and healthier lives but COVID-19 threatens to throw progress off track
  • It was disclosed that the pandemic highlights the urgent need for all countries to invest in strong health systems
  • The need for stronger data and health information systems was also seen

People around the world are living longer and healthier lives but COVID-19 threatens to throw progress off track, the World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed recently, highlighting the need for strong health systems.

Image via Pixabay

In a news release sent to the press, the international health organization noted that all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been causing significant loss of life, disrupting livelihoods, and threatening the recent advances in health and progress towards global development goals highlighted in the 2020 World Health Statistics; an annual check-up on the world’s health.

“The good news is that people around the world are living longer and healthier lives. The bad news is the rate of progress is too slow to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and will be further thrown off track by COVID-19,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The pandemic highlights the urgent need for all countries to invest in strong health systems and primary health care, as the best defense against outbreaks like COVID-19, and against the many other health threats that people around the world face every day. Health systems and health security are two sides of the same coin,” he added.

It was found that life expectancy and healthy life expectancy have increased–but unequally. The biggest gains were reported in low-income countries, which saw life expectancy rise 21 percent or 11 years between 2000 and 2016 (compared with an increase of four percent or three years in higher income countries).

WHO logo

One driver of progress in lower-income countries was rgw improved access to services to prevent and treat HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis; as well as a number of neglected tropical diseases such as guinea worm. Another was better maternal and child healthcare, which led to a halving of child mortality between 2000 and 2018.

In a number of areas, however, progress has been stalling. Immunization coverage has barely increased in recent years and there are fears that malaria gains may be reversed. In addition, there is an overall shortage of services within and outside the health system to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease, and stroke.

Moreover, in 2016, 70 percent of all deaths worldwide were attributable to NCDs, with the majority of deaths (85 percent) occurring in low and middle-income countries.

The uneven progress, it was noted, broadly mirrors inequalities in access to quality health services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to protect people from health emergencies, as well as to promote universal health coverage and healthier populations to keep people from needing health services through multisecotral interventions like improving basic hygiene and sanitation,” WHO Assistant Director General Samira Asma stressed.

The need for stronger data and health information systems was also highlighted.For almost a fifth of countries, over half of the key indicators have no recent primary or direct underlying data; another major challenge in enabling countries to prepare for, prevent and respond to health emergencies such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO encouraged countries to strengthen surveillance and data and health information systems so they can measure their status and manage improvements.

“We will only succeed in doing this by helping countries to improve their data and health information systems,” Asma emphasized.