Triad of top fa­tal factors

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS -

– Fewer chil­dren are dy­ing be­fore their fifth birth­day and al­though hu­mans are liv­ing longer than ever be­fore, one in five deaths last year were linked to poor diet, re­searchers said yes­ter­day.

More than 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple in poor coun­tries died in 2016 from di­ar­rhoea caused by con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and food, while another 2.4 mil­lion suc­cumbed to lung in­fec­tions that mostly could have been pre­vented or treated.

Another two mil­lion moth­ers and new­borns per­ished due to com­pli­ca­tions at birth that rudi­men­tary health care could have largely avoided.

Aids and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis each claimed more than a mil­lion lives, while malaria killed over 700 000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to half-a-dozen stud­ies pub­lished jointly in The Lancet, a lead­ing med­i­cal jour­nal. But trend lines have de­clined over the last decade for these com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases.

The same can­not be said for vi­ral hep­ati­tis, which killed 1.34 mil­lion peo­ple in 2016 – 22% more than in 2000, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Nearly 55 mil­lion peo­ple died in 2016, while 129 mil­lion were born, leav­ing a net gain of 74 hu­mans on the planet. Global life ex­pectancy last year was 75.3 years for women and nearly 70 for men. The Ja­panese av­er­aged 83.9 years, while cit­i­zens of the Cen­tral African Repub­lic beat the odds if they make it past 50.

Nearly three-quar­ters of all deaths in 2016 were caused by non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, with heart dis­ease re­lated to re­stricted blood flow – 9.5 mil­lion deaths – the sin­gle big­gest killer of all. That’s an in­crease of nearly 20% in a decade.

Sim­i­larly, mor­tal­ity due to di­a­betes went up by more than 30% over the same pe­riod to 1.4 mil­lion. Can­cers – led by lung can­cer – are also on the rise, ac­count­ing for nearly nine mil­lion deaths in 2016, 17% more than in 2006. To­bacco is blamed for 7.1 mil­lion of those fa­tal­i­ties. Com­bin­ing the two ex­tremes of in­ad­e­quate nu­tri­tion and un­healthy eating in richer com­mu­ni­ties, poor diet is linked to one in five deaths.

The stud­ies also showed that one in seven peo­ple are “liv­ing with men­tal health and sub­stance use dis­or­ders”. The global pop­u­la­tion af­flicted with Alzheimer’s or Parkin­son’s dis­ease was 2.6 mil­lion in 2016, a 40% surge from only a decade ear­lier. Al­co­hol and drug use ac­counted for 320 000 deaths. Deaths at­trib­uted to con­flict and ter­ror­ism ex­ceeded 150 000 in 2016, 140% up from a decade ear­lier.

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