Access to safe water and sanitation among top global public health achievements

Access to safe water and sanitation are among the ten top global public health achievements in the first decade of 21st century identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC asked experts in global public health to nominate noteworthy public health achievements that occurred outside of the United States during 2001–2010. CDC selected ten of these achievements and published an overview in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of 24 June 2011.

Between 2000 and 2008, CDC reports that an additional 800 million people gained access to improved drinking water sources, and additional 570 million people gained access to improved sanitation. In addition, education and safe water technology have eradicated Guinea worm in all but four countries (Southern Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, and Ghana), with complete eradication expected in 2012.

Below is the full text of the section on Access to Safe Water and Sanitation

Water-related diseases, principally the 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea that occur annually, are the second leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide. Diarrhea, almost 90% of which is related to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), kills 1.5 million children aged

During the previous century, in Europe, North America, and Japan, drinking water treatment virtually eliminated waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. More recently, although improved WASH access has resulted in significant progress in controlling water-related disease in certain countries (e.g., Mexico and Chile), neglect of WASH infrastructure has contributed to large, deadly, waterborne outbreaks in others (e.g., cholera in Zimbabwe). Continued improvements in global WASH coverage require intensifying current efforts, including long-term, multisectoral commitment to constructing and maintaining water and sanitation systems, behavior change promotion, and WASH-related disease surveillance.

The nine other public health achievements listed by CDC were:

  • Reductions in Child Mortality
  • Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
  • Malaria Prevention and Control
  • Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS
  • Tuberculosis Control
  • Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases
  • Tobacco Control
  • Increased Awareness and Response for Improving Global Road Safety
  • Improved Preparedness and Response to Global Health Threats

Source: Ten great public health achievements – worldwide, 2001-2010. In: Morbidity and mortality weekly report (MMWR), vol. 60, no. 24 ; p. 814-818. (June 24, 2011)

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