With terrorism and the violence of war dominating the headlines lately, Charles Kenny urges keeping our eye on the ball regarding what really saves human lives:
The WHO data suggest that on the whole, all forms of violence are a minor cause of death—accounting for just 1.2 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2000 and 1.1 percent of all deaths in 2012. Kidney diseases, liver cancer, suicide, and unintentional falls each killed more people than violence against others in 2012. Heart disease and stroke each killed more than 10 times as many.
The good news is that there has been a massive and rapid drop in premature deaths; around the world, people are enjoying longer lives. In 2000, 43 percent of those who died were below the age of 50. By 2012, that proportion had dropped to 34 percent. That has contributed to climbing life expectancy. Globally, someone born in 2000 could expect to live to the age of 66. By 2012, that had reached 70 years.
Kenny is concerned that the fight against terrorism will receive all the attention — and funding — that disease prevention credibly deserves instead:
The past 12 years suggests how rapidly we can make progress if we focus on the biggest causes of tragically premature deaths worldwide—first among which are infectious diseases. Measles alone killed 499,000 children under the age of five in 2000. That dropped by four-fifths, to just 101,000 children, in 2012. This success story is underappreciated. A Web search for news stories suggests 80 times the coverage of terrorism and terror than of measles. And doubtless that’s one factor why the U.S. has spent about $1.6 trillion on the global war on terror from 2001 to 2014 compared with less than one-thousandth that amount on rolling out vaccines worldwide through the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunizations.
Julia Belluz and Steven Hoffman celebrate these success stories and say that money dedicated to improving global health has indeed increased:
Despite what the news headlines may have us believe, the world has actually progressed enormously over the past 25 years. Perhaps no field of international development has seen as much progress as global health…
There has been a quintupling of funding from national governments and philanthropists, going from $5.82 billion USD in 1990 to $31.3 billion USD in 2013. Using 1990 as a baseline, child mortality has been cut by 47 percent, maternal mortality by 45 percent, and the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases is starting to reverse.
Not huge leaps, for sure, but not baby steps either, the global community is slowly but surely headed in the right direction when it comes to disease prevention.