Uneven Access to Health Services Drives Life Expectancy Gaps

By Vera Shawiza / Published April 5, 2019 | 5:51 am



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Women live longer than men everywhere in the world, particularly in wealthy countries, says the World Health Statistics 2019.

The gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is narrowest where women lack access to health services. In low-income countries, where services are scarcer, 1 in 41 women die from a maternal cause, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries. In more than 90 percent of low-income countries, there are fewer than 4 nursing and midwifery personnel per 1000 people.

Statistics from the report showcase the fact that attitudes to healthcare differ. Where men and women face the same disease, men often seek health care less than women.  In countries with generalized HIV epidemics, for example, men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than women. Similarly, male TB patients appear to be less likely to seek care than female TB patients.

“Breaking down data by age, sex and income group is vital for understanding who is being left behind and why. “Behind every number in the World Health Statistics is a person, a family, a community or a nation. Our task is to use these data to make evidence-based policy decisions that move us closer to a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 causes contribute more to reduced life expectancy in men than in women. In 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from a noncommunicable disease before 70 years of age was 44 percent higher in men than women.

Global suicide mortality rates were 75 percent higher in men than in women in 2016. Death rates from road injuries are more than twice as high in men than in women from age 15, and mortality rates due to homicide are 4 times higher in men than in women.

Published to coincide with World Health Day on 7 April, which this year focuses on primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage, the new WHO statistics highlight the need to improve access to primary health care worldwide and to increase uptake.

“One of WHO’s triple billion goals is for 1 billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023,” said Dr. Tedros. “This means improving access to services, especially at community level, and making sure those services are accessible, affordable, and effective for everyone – regardless of their gender.”

Life expectancy has improved since 2000

Between 2000 and 2016, global life expectancy at birth increased by 5.5 years, from 66.5 to 72.0 years.  Healthy life expectancy at birth – the number of years one can expect to live in full health- increased from 58.5 years in 2000 to 63.3 years in 2016.

Life expectancy remains strongly affected by income. In low-income countries, life expectancy is 18.1 years lower than in high-income countries. One child in every 14 born in a low-income country will die before their fifth birthday.

For the first time, this year, WHO’s Global Health Statistics have been disaggregated by sex according to the report but many countries still struggle to provide gender-disaggregated information.

“Closing data gaps will accelerate and is important to closing the gender gap,” said Dr. Richard Cibulskis, the report’s main author. “Collecting, analyzing, and using good quality, disaggregated data is central to improving people’s health and wellbeing. Health policy and practice must be underpinned by robust and reliable data, generated in countries.”





About Vera Shawiza

Vera Shawiza is Soko Directory’s in-house journalist. Her zealous nature ensures that sufficient and relevant content is generated for the Soko Directory website and sourcing information from clients is easy as smooth sailing.Vera can be reached at: (020) 528 0222 or Email: info@sokodirectory.com

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