Poverty and Health
Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. Simply put, people do not have sufficient income to purchase enough food. Conflict and drought, for example, are certainly important causes of hunger, but the most typical situation is that people just do not have enough income to purchase the food that they need—they could be starving in some slum somewhere, for example.
Harmful economic systems
The principal underlying cause of poverty and thus hunger is the ordinary operation of the world's economic and political systems. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive. Controlling the government and other sources of power and income is a fundamental way of obtaining income.
Freedom in the World is an annual index that measures the degree that people have political rights and civil liberties.
What other links are there between poverty and poor health?
Marginalised groups and vulnerable individuals are often worst affected, deprived of the information, money or access to health services that would help them prevent and treat disease. The cultural and social barriers faced by marginalised groups – including indigenous communities – can mean they use health services less, with serious consequences for their health. This perpetuates their disproportionate levels of poverty.
The cost of doctors’ fees, a course of drugs and transport to reach a health centre can be devastating, both for an individual and their relatives who need to care for them or help them reach and pay for treatment. The burden of caring is often taken on by a female relative, who may have to give up her education as a result, or take on waged work to help meet the household’s costs. Missing out on education has long-term implications for a woman’s opportunities later in life and for her own health.
Overcrowded and poor living conditions can contribute to the spread of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis and respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Reliance on open fires or traditional stoves can lead to deadly indoor air pollution. A lack of food and sanitation can also be fatal.
Which infectious diseases are the main killers worldwide?
HIV, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as communicable respiratory diseases such as pneumonia kill the most people.
Diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria account for nearly half of all child deaths globally. Neglected tropical diseases affect over one billion people, almost all in the poorest and most marginalised communities.
You may not have heard of diseases such as leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths and trachoma, but they can cause severe pain and life-long disabilities – and mean enormous productivity losses. However, efforts to tackle them have usually taken a back seat to the bigger killers.
Which are the most deadly non-communicable illnesses worldwide?
The biggest non-communicable killers are maternal and newborn deaths and deaths related to poor nutrition, cardiovascular disease and non-communicable respiratory diseases.
How do disease and infection affect economic growth?
Lives lost mean reduced economic productivity as well as personal tragedy. Productivity is further slowed while people are ill or caring for others.
There were 1.7 HIV-related deaths in 2007 and 990 thousand deaths from tuberculosis.
Most of these were among young people and adults in their most productive years. In heavily affected countries billions of dollars of economic activity are lost each year as a result of illness and death from HIV, TB and malaria. This can seriously reduce economic growth in countries that are already struggling.
Malaria reduces economic growth by 1.3% in heavily affected countries, and costs around $12 billion in lost GDP across Africa.
TB costs around 7% of GDP in the worst affected countries.
Water and Health
Every year, over 1.8 million people die of diarrheoal diseases (including cholera) and 1.3 million succumb to malaria (2004 figures).
Of all the deaths attributable to diarrhoeal diseases in developing countries, 90% are of children under 5 years old, vs. only 9% in developed countries.
In addition, the lack of adequate drinking-water and/or sanitation facilities, coupled with poor hygiene, imposes an extremely high disease burden on millions of children and adults through schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, hepatitis, typhoid and other diseases (see box). In turn, this severely compromises well-being and productivity and it aggravates poverty.
Sufficient and better quality drinking-water and basic sanitation, combined with good hygiene practices, can cut this toll dramatically, and simple, low-cost household water treatment has the potential to save additional lives. If people do not have a steady supply of good-quality water that is sufficient to meet their daily needs. Water's crucial role in accomplishing the continent's development goals is widely recognised.
Debt and health
In many of the poorest countries, the provision of decent, accessible public services – delivered by a qualified and properly paid workforce – is threatened by huge debt burdens and damaging policies demanded by creditors. Every day 4,000 children die from diarrhoea, a disease of dirty water, and 1,400 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. In developing countries, public services can mean the difference between life and death.
The debt crisis has its origins in the 1970s and 1980s, when rich governments and companies lent huge sums to developing countries, often knowingly to corrupt regimes and to serve their own political or commercial ends. Whilst there have been major steps forward in cancelling debt, the rich world has still not taken full responsibility for these ‘illegitimate’ debts and the ensuing debt crisis. On the contrary, as debt burdens grew over the last 30 years, creditors told impoverished countries to cut their public spending in order to ‘balance the books’ and keep up with debt payments. Today, debt drains poor countries of resources that could otherwise be spent on vital public services. Where debt has been cancelled, countries have invested in public services.
Disease IS a preventable cause of poverty
A staggering 99% of people who die from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis (TB) live in the developing world. Though new HIV infections are declining and the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment is growing, 34 million people are still living with HIV/AIDS.
Malaria kills about 660,000 people each year, imposing a huge toll on African economies and households. Economists believe that malaria is responsible for a growth penalty of up to 1.3% in some African countries, severely restraining economic growth in the region. Other diseases claim large numbers of small victims. Malnutrition and AIDS are contributing to an increase in tuberculosis cases, which now affects some 250,000 children. Outbreaks of polio and cholera require fast, experienced action in some of the world’s most hard-to-reach areas.
Effective prevention, care, and sustainable treatment includes:
Promoting safer sexual behavior, male circumcision, and treatment
Promoting long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets to combat malaria
Improving housing conditions, TB screening of HIV-positive persons, and Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) therapy for TB
Questions to consider:
1. What are the key health issues for your country and region?
2. Do all people have access to safe and reliable water supplies?
3. How is health impacted by water in your country?
4. How is an increasing population, urbanisation or migration impacting upon health in your country and region?
5. How is your country tackling rural poverty and health?
6. How has your country implemented legislation that protects water supplies and ensures equitable access?
7. How has your government attempted to tackle MDGs : 1,2,4,5 and 6?
8. Which international agreements is your country a signatory to?
http://www.who.int/gho/countries/en/ Country statistics
Delegates, how can we:
support countries to scale up health interventions?
develop stronger national health systems?
ensure disease prevention is integrated into maternal and child health programs?
protect the poor from health risks and financial shocks?
prevent people becoming infected with HIV – helping to change behaviours to reduce HIV risks; increasing access to prevention commodities; supporting programmes for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV; promoting safe blood supplies and prevention of HIV transmission in health care settings; assessing new prevention technologies?
expand the availability of treatment?
strengthen health care systems so that they can deliver quality and sustainable programmes and services?
Improve standards of living and provide education and training for all?