Global deaths from diarrhoea, malaria, AIDS declining, study predicts

Book coverUnder-five child mortality from diarrhoeal diseases, which was 1.7 million in 2005, is expected to fall to just over half a million by 2030 and around 130,000 in 2060, a new study [1] predicts.

The study notes that headway is being made in fighting communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and AIDS. At the global level disease burdens are shifting from communicable diseases to chronic ones such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The study came from the Frederick S Pardee Centre for International Futures in the University of Denver’s (DU) Josef Korbel School of International Studies. It is the third in a series of five volumes that focus on human progress in which researchers explore topics such as education, poverty, infrastructure and governance.

“Because of great advances, the number of deaths globally from communicable diseases has fallen significantly compared to deaths from chronic diseases, which primarily affect the elderly,” said Barry Hughes, one of the volume’s authors.

Statistics already show a 50% higher rate of death globally from chronic disease than from communicable diseases, although there are still more years of potential life lost to communicable diseases because they kill more infants and children.

By 2020, however, chronic diseases will even take more years of life than will communicable ones. The transition is both driven by and driving rapid population ageing, even in developing countries.

Progress in access to improved drinking water and sanitation will lead to a significant decrease in the burden of disease from diarrhoeal diseases, the study predicts.

The number of children under five dying from diarrheal diseases is projected to fall to just over half a million by 2030 and around 130,000 in 2060 in our base case scenario. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most affected region in terms of both absolute numbers and mortality rates, but even here dramatic improvement is seen, with the probability of a child dying from diarrheal diseases falling from 25 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to only 2.4 per 1,000 live births in 2060.

Still, there is room for action to enhance these improvements by directly addressing the issue of access to improved water and sanitation. In addition to our base case, we considered two alternative scenarios: a fast improvement scenario and a slow improvement scenario. In these cases, the percentages of households without access are gradually adjusted such that they are, respectively, one standard error below or above the base case projections by the year 2030 and remain one standard error below or above the base case forecasts for the remainder of the period. The standard errors for water and sanitation were taken from estimated crosssectional relationships [Hughes, 2011, p. 97]

The two scenarios show a dramatic difference in terms of childhood mortality from diarrheal diseases in the earlier years, with a peak difference of more than 330,000 deaths in the mid-2020s.

After this time, the differences between the scenarios decrease as the general decline in diarrheal deaths in both scenarios overtakes the effects of differences in access to improved water and sanitation. The largest differences occur in subSaharan African and South Asia, reflecting their dominant share in diarrheal deaths. [Hughes, 2011, p. 97]

Source: Hughes, 2011, p. 97

[1] Hughes, B.B. … [et al.] (2011). Improving global health : forecasting the next 50 years. (Patterns of potential human progress ; vol. 3). Denver, CO, USA, Frederick S. Pardee Center, University of Denver. Download full publication

Source: ANI, DNA, 15 Mar 2011

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