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Global Health: Progress amid Despair

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Global Health: Progress amid Despair

December 15, 2008

Although some international health indicators have improved substantially in the last decade, poverty, conflict, lack of access to health care and/or education, poor sterilization techniques, evolving human migration patterns, unsafe water, new infectious agents and changing development activities all contribute to what seems a dismal global health climate.

Despite targeted efforts by the World Health Organization, nongovernmental organizations, and governments, more than 80 percent of deaths from infectious diseases worldwide continue to be caused by just a handful of diseases, including lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis, malaria and measles, according to an update of the WHO's Global Burden of Disease report issued in 2008. (An updated study is expected to be released in late 2010.) Since 1981, an estimated 25 million people have died from AIDS alone, according to the 2008 United Nations Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. Children younger than age 5 face multiple other health challenges, including birth injuries, marasmus (protein-energy malnutrition) and infection. Other diseases, such as intestinal parasites and leprosy, continue to cause chronic disability and stigma. Despite political impediments to progress, well-funded organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are conducting specialized research and translating that research into both policy and on-the-ground services in developing countries. Updated April 2010

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