On December 18, 2014, I received the following on mortality from heart disease in Zambia: In Zambia, average life expectancy for men increased to 58 years.
Women’s average life expectancy increased to 55.7 years in 2013.
Today, fewer people are dying from measles and diarrheal diseases in Zambia, according to a new, comprehensive analysis of trend data from 188 countries.
Mortality from measles dropped 89 per cent between 1990 and 2013. At the same time, a number of diseases, including ischemic heart disease and stroke, claimed more lives in Zambia in 2013 than in 1990.
Life expectancy improved for both men and women in Zambia, at an average of 5.5 years gained since 1990.
Published in The Lancet, the research was conducted by an international consortium of researchers coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
The leading killers in Zambia were HIV/AIDS related, malaria and pneumonia, accounting for 41 per cent of all deaths in 2013.
HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were the top two causes of death for people between the ages of 15 and 49, resulting in 28,078 lives lost in 2013.
Among individuals 70 and older, stroke claimed the most lives that year. The top cause of child mortality was malaria in 2013, killing 8,621 children under the age of 5.
In Zambia, ischemic heart disease and stroke took more lives in 2013 than in 1990, with deaths increasing more than 200 per cent and 167 per cent respectively. Mortality from tuberculosis also increased 59 per cent between 1990 and 2013.
Since 1990, Zambia saw marked declines in mortality from a number of diseases that used to take a large toll on the country. For instance, by 2013, mortality from measles decreased 89 per cent and diarrheal diseases caused 35 per cent fewer deaths.
In 1990, these diseases killed 16,555 people. Twenty-three years later, they claimed 6,738 fewer lives.
The study also revealed how some diseases and injuries cause different mortality patterns for males and females.
For example, in Zambia, neonatal sepsis took a greater toll on males, killing 1,588 males and 1,116 females in 2013. By contrast, HIV/AIDS claimed 18,086 women’s lives and 15,695 men’s lives.
“We have achieved great progress in reducing mortality from a number of diseases, reflecting our country’s investments in improving health for its citizens,” said Felix Masiye, a researcher based at the University of Zambia. “But we are still seeing children dying and deaths from other conditions are rising. These data are critical to understanding where we’ve been – and then where we need to go in order to save more lives in the future.”
Mr Masiye says that the policy challenges are not really diminished by this progress: “In fact we see a rising burden of non-communicable diseases such as stroke and ischemic heart diseases in Zambia.”
Globally, people live an average of 6.2 years longer than they did in 1990, with life expectancy rising to just under 72 years in 2013. Women showed a slightly larger average gain (an increase of 6.6 years) than men (a rise of 5.8 years). Improvements in health, reduced fertility, and shifts in the world’s age patterns have driven these global gains in life expectancy.
In Zambia, the average life expectancy for women was 55.7 years in 2013, with men living an average of 58 years. By contrast, women lived an average of 51.8 years and men had a life expectancy of 50.9 years in 1990. Out of the 188 countries included in the study Zambia ranked 184th for women and 168th for men for longest life expectancies. In 2013, Andorra had the longest life expectancy for women (86.7 years) and Qatar had the longest for men (81.2 years). Lesotho had the shortest life expectancy for both women (51.2 years) and men (45.6 years).
“The fact that people are living longer in most parts of the world is good news but we must do more to address health disparities,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “Only with the best available evidence can we develop policies to improve health and save lives.”
Worldwide, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) claimed the most lives, accounting for nearly 32% of all deaths. Much global progress has been made in reducing mortality from diseases such as measles and diarrhea, with 83% and 51% declines respectively, from 1990 to 2013.
The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2013 is part of an ongoing effort to produce the timeliest and up-to-date understanding of what kills and ails people worldwide. Thousands of collaborators worldwide work together to generate annual estimates of deaths by cause, years of life lost to disability, and rates of premature mortality and illness. To make these data as useful and relevant to policymakers and country leaders as possible, findings from the GBD study can be used at the global, regional, national, and even sub-national levels to track trends in health over time.
Researchers found a widening gap between countries with the lowest and highest death rates from a given disease – a potential sign of increasing inequalities in health.
They also emphasise the importance of measuring local disease burdens, as the health challenges found in one corner of a country can vary widely from those experienced a few hours away.
Globally, a number of diseases that have received less attention relative to others are some of the biggest causes of premature death, particularly drug use disorders, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cirrhosis. The gender gap in death rates for adults between the ages of 20 to 44 is widening and HIV/AIDS, interpersonal violence, road injuries, and maternal mortality are some of the key conditions responsible.
For children under 5, diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, neonatal disorders, and malaria are still among the leading causes of death.
Two diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria, followed very different mortality trends from other diseases.
The global death toll from both diseases peaked around 2005 rather than 1990, with deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria declining 22per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, from 2005 to 2013.
For Zambia, HIV/AIDS mortality peaked in 2004, claiming 51,718 lives. By 2013, deaths due to HIV/AIDS decreased 35 per cent. Malaria mortality in Zambia peaked in 2002, with 25,572 deaths, but then fell 46 per cent by 2013.
Leading causes of death in Zambia, with the number of lives lost
1990 (deaths) 2013 (deaths)
1. HIV/AIDS (21,110) 1. HIV/AIDS (33,781)
2. Malaria (15,021) 2. Malaria (13,812)
3. Diarrheal diseases (14,739) 3. Pneumonia (12,714)
4. Pneumonia (12,102) 4. Diarrheal diseases (9,626)
5. Malnutrition (6,130) 5. Tuberculosis (8,957)
6. Tuberculosis (5,632) 6. Stroke (6,747)
7. Meningitis (3,135) 7. Malnutrition (5,703)
8. Neonatal encephalopathy (2,903) 8. Ischemic heart disease (3,735)
9. Stroke (2,531) 9. Neonatal encephalopathy (3,506)
10. Congenital anomalies (2,187) 10. Meningitis (3,073)
IHME is an independent global health research organisation at the University of Washington that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health.
Recently, I had a chat with Mr Howard Maila, the Copperbelt based primary school teacher who for some time now, has developed a herbal drug, Mailacin H, that is used to treat HIV, Cancer, TB, chest infections and other chronic ailments. Mr Maila now feels that his drug can help the many victims of the deadly Ebola virus which has affected a number of West African countries.
Mr Maila says: “let the Mailacin H formulation which is non toxic and anti-viral in nature be taken to the state of the art South African laboratories urgently for in vitro tests on the Ebola virus.”
According to him, the findings to be elicited without any doubt are:
- It will be proved a cure for this pandemic
- If used on human subjects, it will change their clinical picture and sustain their health within hours to better
- The disease will no longer adversely affect the social-economic status of the poor nations
- Fear about Ebola will not be insinuated very much
Mr Maila says the drug being anti-viral in nature, could cure Ebola which is a viral infection and that he is hopeful that relevant authorities can assist in testing the drug.
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