Life expectancy gaps driven by uneven access to health care services: WHO

Life expectancy gaps driven by uneven access to health care services: WHO

by Shruthi Venkatesh April 9 2019, 1:39 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 17 secs

In many circumstances, men access health care less than women. Men are much more likely to die from preventable and treatable non-communicable diseases and road traffic accidents. This uneven access to health services drives life expectancy gaps - reports the World Health Organization.

The World Health Statistics 2019 explains why women outlive men everywhere, especially in wealthy countries. “Breaking down data by age, sex and income group is vital for understanding who is being left behind and why,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Behind every number in the World Health Statistics is a person, a family, a community or a nation. Our task is to use these data to make evidence-based policy decisions that move us closer to a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone.”

The gap between men’s and women’s life expectancy is narrowest where women lack access to health services. In low-income countries, 1 in 41 women dies from a maternal cause, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries. In more than 90 per cent of low-income countries, there are fewer than 4 nursing and midwifery personnel per 1000 people, the report states.

Men seek fewer healthcare services compared to women even though when both are diagnosed with the same disease. For example - in countries with generalized HIV epidemics, men are less likely than women to take an HIV test, less likely to access antiretroviral therapy and more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses than women. Similarly, male TB patients appear to be less likely to seek care than female TB patients.

Women outlive men everywhere in the world, reports WHO

The report also focuses that there are different causes of death between men and women. Some are biological, some influenced by environmental and societal factors, and some impacted by availability of and uptake of health services. In 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from a non-communicable disease before 70 years of age was 44% higher in men than women.

On marking the World Health Day on 7th April, this year the theme focuses on primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage, highlighting the need to improve access to primary health care worldwide and to increase uptake.

“One of WHO’s triple billion goals is for 1 billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023,” said Dr. Tedros. “This means improving access to services, especially at community level, and making sure those services are accessible, affordable, and effective for everyone – regardless of their gender.”

“These statistics underscore the need to prioritize primary health care urgently to effectively manage non-communicable diseases and to curb risk factors.” said Dr. Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director General for Data, Analytics and Delivery. “For example, something as simple as controlling blood pressure is just not happening on the scale needed and tobacco use remains a leading cause of premature death.”

Taking a look on the life expectancy report of 2000 to 2016, birth rates have increased by 5.5 years, from 66.5 to 72.0 years. The number of years one can expect to live in full health increased from 58.5 years in 2000 to 63.3 years in 2016.

In low-income countries, life expectancy is 18.1 years lower than in high-income countries. One child in every 14 born in a low-income country will die before their fifth birthday – the report shows.

WHO’s Global Health Statistics for the first time have been disaggregated by sex.  “Closing data gaps will accelerate and is important to closing the gender gap,” said Dr. Richard Cibulskis, the report’s main author. “Collecting, analyzing, and using good quality, disaggregated data is central to improving people’s health and wellbeing. Health policy and practice must be underpinned by robust and reliable data, generated in countries.” This new investigation has provided insights into the health and needs of people around the world. But many countries still struggle to provide gender disaggregated information.

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