Ghana makes strides in lowering deaths from infectious diseases

New Global Burden of Disease study reveals that income, education, and birth rates –

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while critical – are not the only keys to healthy living in 195 countries

Ghanaians are living longer lives than they were 25 years ago, according to a new scientific analysis of more than 300 diseases and injuries in 195 countries.

However, such progress is threatened by increasing numbers of people suffering from serious health challenges related to childhood wasting, unsafe sex, and household air pollution from solid fuels.

These and other significant health findings are being published in a dedicated issue of The Lancet as part of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD). The study draws on the work of more than 1,800 collaborators in nearly 130 countries and territories.

“Ghana has made progress in diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB in the past 15 years,” said Ben B. Sackey with the WHO Ghana Country Office. “However, these gains could be cut short by the emergence of new disease burdens like injuries, alcoholism, and suicide. The situation can be attributed to lack of resources and priority-setting.”

In Ghana, the leading cause of death was lower respiratory infections, resulting in 19,052 deaths in 2015. The second and third top causes of death were ischemic heart disease and malaria, killing 15,274 and 14,478, respectively.
But the conditions that kill are not typically those that make people sick in Ghana. In 2015, the top three nonfatal causes of health loss were iron-deficiency anemia, depression, and low back pain.

Globally, life expectancy increased from about 62 years to nearly 72 from 1980 to 2015, with several nations in sub-Saharan Africa rebounding from high death rates due to HIV/AIDS. Child deaths are falling fast, as are illnesses related to infectious diseases. But each country has its own specific challenges and improvements, from fewer suicides in France, to lower death rates on Nigerian roadways, to a reduction in asthma-related deaths in Indonesia.

Findings for Ghana include:
• A child born in Ghana in 2015 can expect to live to the age of 65, while that child’s parent, when born in 1990, had a life expectancy of 58.
• While the world has made great progress in reducing deaths of young children, globally 5.8 million children under the age of 5 died in 2015. Of that global figure, 48,540 of those children were in Ghana. The number of under-age-5 deaths in Ghana in 1990 was 68,706.
• Ghana has reduced deaths of expecting or new mothers, with the number of maternal deaths in 2015 dropping to 2,615 from 2,723 in 1990. The ratio of maternal deaths fell from 476 deaths per 100,000 livebirths to 296.

The report was released at an event co-sponsored by IHME, The Lancet, and the World Bank in Washington, DC. The study was established in 1990 with support from the World Bank. This year, researchers analyzed each country using a Socio-demographic Index, examining rates of education, fertility, and income. This new categorization goes beyond the historical “developed” versus “developing” or economic divisions based on income alone.

The six papers provide in-depth analyses of causes of death, maternal mortality, deaths of children under age 5, overall disease burden and life expectancy, years lived with disability, and the risk factors that lead to health loss.

In much of the world, giving birth is safer for mothers and newborns than it has been over the past 25 years. The number of maternal deaths globally dropped by roughly 29% since 1990, and the ratio of maternal deaths fell 30%, from 282 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 196 in 2015.

“Development drives, but does not determine health,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, the coordinating center for the GBD enterprise. “We see countries that have improved far faster than can be explained by income, education, or fertility. And we also continue to see countries

– including the United States – that are far less healthy than they should be given their resources.”

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