World Health Statistics 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) published the World Health Statistics 2020 on May 13, 2020. WHO’s World Health Statistics — an annual check-up on the world’s health — reports progress against a series of key health and health service indicators, revealing some important lessons in terms of progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals and gaps to fill.

Progresses Listed by the World Health Statistics 2020

Life Expectancy: 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% or 11 years between 2000 and 2016 (compared with an increase of 4% or 3 years in higher income countries).

Access to Health Service: One driver of progress in lower-income countries was 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.

Maternal and child healthcare: Another was better maternal and child healthcare, which led to a halving of child mortality between 2000 and 2018.

Uneven Progress

In a number of areas, progress has been stalling.

  • Immunization coverage: It has barely increased in recent years, and there are fears that malaria gains may be reversed.
  • Treatment of NCDs: 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.

Remember This: In 2016, 71 per cent of all deaths worldwide were attributable to NCDs, with the majority of the 15 million premature deaths (85%) occurring in low and middle-income countries.

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The progress mirrors inequalities in Access to Quality Health Services

This uneven progress broadly mirrors inequalities in access to quality health services. Only between one third and one half the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017. Service coverage in low- and middle-income countries remains well below coverage in wealthier ones; as do health workforce densities. In more than 40% of all countries, there are fewer than 10 medical doctors per 10 000 people. Over 55% of countries have fewer than 40 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10 000 people.

The inability to pay for healthcare is another major challenge for many

On current trends, WHO estimates that this year, 2020, approximately 1 billion people (almost 13 per cent of the global population) will be spending at least 10% of their household budgets on health care. The majority of these people live in lower middle-income countries.

In 2017, more than half (55%) of the global population was estimated to lack access to safely-managed sanitation services, and more than one quarter (29%) lacked safely-managed drinking water. In the same year, two in five households globally (40%) lacked basic handwashing facilities with soap and water in their home.

The World Health Statistics also highlight the need for stronger data and health information systems

Uneven capacities to collect and use accurate, timely, and comparable health statistics, undermining countries’ ability to understand population health trends, develop appropriate policies, allocate resources and prioritize interventions.

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. WHO is therefore supporting countries in strengthening surveillance and data and health information systems so they can measure their status and manage improvements. 

What is the message from the report?

The message from this report is clear: as the world battles the most serious pandemic in 100 years, just a decade away from the SDG deadline, the world must act together to strengthen primary health care and focus on the most vulnerable in order to eliminate the gross inequalities that dictate who lives a long, healthy life and who doesn’t. The world can only succeed in doing this by helping countries to improve their data and health information systems.

This year’s World Health Statistics report makes clear that the global efforts in recent decades have been paying off. Looking at the most up-to-date data we have on some of these vital SDG indicators, it reveals health trends across Member States, regions and the entire world.

Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE)

Life expectancy gives an indication of how long a population is expected to live on average. But Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) reveals the true health of a population.

It’s about both length of life and quality of life

Not just the number of years the average person lives, but the number of years they can expect to live in good health. And the encouraging news is that, between 2000 and 2016, HALE increased globally by 8% from 59 years to 63.

Death, disease and intervention

There are great challenges to surviving and thriving through life’s chapters, from infanthood to old age. And some regions face far greater challenges than others.

  • Read summary of World Health Statistics 2020 here

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