Health Causes

The world population is not only living longer but living healthier

Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy (HALE) have both increased by over 8% globally between 2000 and 2016, and remain profoundly influenced by income. Despite the largest gains in both indicators being due primarily to the progress made in reducing child mortality and fighting infectious diseases, low-income and lower-middle-income countries continue to suffer from the poorest overall health outcomes, lagging far behind the global average. To effectively sustain the progress in ensuring longer and healthier lives, timely and effective health policies and interventions are needed to minimize the potential direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy, due to excess mortality, and on HALE for populations of different ages, especially among older adults.

The overall improvements in health move along the fault lines created by inequalities and echo the status and the progress made towards universal health coverage

Overall access to essential health services improved from 2000 to 2017, with the strongest increase in low- and lower middle-income countries. Yet, service coverage in low- and middle-income countries remains well below coverage in wealthier ones. Due to the serious inadequacy of service coverage in low-resource settings, the overall access to essential health services is still way below optimum. Only between one third and one half of the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017. The inability to pay for health care poses another major challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic not only draws into focus the need to rebuild resilient health systems with increased access to quality health services, lowered financial cost and a strengthened health workforce, but also calls for the provision of services such as routine vaccinations and basic hygiene and sanitation.

Current rate of progress falls short and COVID-19 further risks getting the world off track to achieve SDGs

Prevention and treatment coverage have substantially improved for major infectious diseases, maternal, neonatal and child health care, leading to steady decline in incidence and mortality from these diseases in the past two decades. However, the current rate of change is insufficient to reach the 2030 SDG targets. Preserving progress made, constant vigilance, early detection and monitoring, a unified national response (in coordination with global partners) and, rapidly scaling up solutions for high risk, resource limited and marginalized populations are key to achieve SDGs.

World Health Organisation