Health plays a critical role in our lives. When we’re healthy, we can go to school, university or work and earn money. The opposite is also true. Stress, work and even living in poverty without enough food can negatively impact our health. It’s only logical that good health is a precious asset – one that is instrumental in combating poverty, among other hardships. Additionally, a lack of access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation facilities adversely affect the health of many people around the world. Air pollution from traffic, industry and waste incineration is equally problematic as a catalyst for disease. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that more than a third of countries only have ten doctors for every 10,000 people – and they are unevenly distributed. That means many people do not receive adequate care when they fall ill. Fewer than one in two people on our planet has access to basic health care. Yet providing universal healthcare and promoting wellbeing throughout life are essential for sustainable development.
Although vaccinations have helped to improve people’s health around the world, there were some 19.9 million children in 2017 who did not receive any vaccinations against various infectious diseases in their first year of life. By halting childhood immunization programs in more than 70 countries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has potentially reversed decades of progress. While complications during pregnancy and childbirth are one of the leading causes of death in developing countries, on a global scale, very few women die in this way because skilled practitioners assist at 81 percent of births.
The overall global mortality rate has also declined, with average life expectancy rising to 69.8 years for boys and 74.5 years for women. In Germany, for instance, life expectancy stands at 83.4 years for girls and 78.6 years for boys. This is significantly higher than the global average and testimony to how good health and wellbeing are vital to extending life. As a result, fewer and fewer people are dying under the age of 70 (premature mortality). These positive developments are also attributable to rising healthcare spending, which averaged EUR 4,944 per capita in 2019 or 11.9 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product.
The goal is to decrease premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by a third by 2030. To achieve this, we need more efficient cooking technology using clean fuels coupled with information campaigns about the risks of tobacco. Despite significant progress in increasing life expectancy as well as minimizing child and maternal mortality, any reduction in obstetric deaths to under 70 per 100,000 births by 2030 can only be attained by improving midwifery skills.
A far more concerted effort is required to fully eradicate a wide range of diseases as well as address various persistent and emerging health issues. By focusing on the provision of more efficient healthcare funding, better sanitation and hygiene as well as improved access to physicians in tandem with reduced air pollution, significant strides can be made that will help save millions of lives.