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Ten years hence

Ten Points about Health Care and Global Disease

April 7, 2006

On April 7, 2006, Dr. James Curran, Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, presented " Public Health Issues in the Future: America and Beyond," which included the following excerpts:  

  • Innovations in public health helped contribute to the 30-year increase in life expectancy in the United States over the course of the 20th century. Americans are living longer, healthier lives. Today's 75-year-old is as healthy as a 65-year-old was 25 years ago.
  • Because Americans are living longer, the growing population of people aged 65 and older combined with a proportionately shrinking percentage of working adults has resulted in less tax money to cover Medicare costs.
  • Of all of the world's nations, the United States spends the highest percentage of its gross domestic product on health care. In fact, it spends more of its taxpayers' money on financing health care than countries that have national health systems.
  • With health-care costs soaring, many states are looking for ways to cut back on Medicaid eligibility. Massachusetts, on the other hand, implemented an experimental program in that aims to provide access to health insurance to all of its residents.
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Infectious diseases rank second, while AIDS ranks third.
  • Political instability hampers the public health efforts in much of the world. In 2003, dissident Muslim doctors and fundamentalists in northern Nigeria claimed that the polio vaccine was an attempt to sterilize the Muslim population and campaigned against polio vaccinations. As a result, polio spread anew throughout Africa, setting back the polio eradication program.
  • Of the 25 million Africans infected with HIV, only about 3 million to 4 million know that they have the disease.
  • While HIV-positive women in the United States. are discouraged from breastfeeding because of a 10 percent risk of transmission to the nursing infant, UNICEF encourages HIV-positive mothers in the developing world to breastfeed in order to pass on antibodies necessary to fight off infections caused by poor living conditions.
  • A disease with a high mortality rate is less likely to spread rapidly. SARS and the avian flu took fewer lives because the victims died quickly and therefore spread the disease to fewer people.
  • The World Bank estimates that depression and mental health issues rank second among leading causes of disability worldwide.


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