What is it?
Good health is an important foundation for economic growth and a thriving society. In the developing world, poor health produces a vicious cycle: The same conditions that create poverty put health at increased risk. Hazardous conditions include unsafe and unclean environments, inadequate nutrition, and lack of access to medical care. Societies emerging from conflict often have a population at increased risk of mental health problems. Individuals in any crisis situation are at increased risk of mental health problems.
Health is so connected to development that it is the main focus for three of the Millennium Development Goals: halting and reversing the effects of HIV, malaria, and other diseases; improving maternal health; and decreasing premature deaths in children. Poor health also makes gender inequality worse because women are disproportionately affected by bad health.
Why should I care?
Your life is at stake! Good health affects everything people do—not only their own lives but also the health of their communities.
The largest number of people in history are about to enter their childbearing years. But most developing countries (and some developed) still:
- Do not have adequate reproductive health care.
- Suffer high numbers of deaths in pregnant mothers or mothers giving birth.
- Have many unplanned pregnancies, approximately 75 million a year.
- Can provide too little care for birthing mothers, resulting in more than 30-40% of infant deaths.
Action for good health is critical. Many major health conditions are easily preventable with adequate nutrition and health care. Here are some facts:
- Malaria, which can be prevented and treated, causes 1 million deaths annually, and impacts many more lives.
- Tuberculosis, the most common contagious infectious disease in the world, is easily preventable.
- One out of two young people who start and continue to smoke will die from tobacco-related illnesses.
- The principal cause of childhood blindness is Vitamin A deficiency.
- The single most preventable cause of mental retardation and brain damage in children is iodine deficiency.
What is the international community doing?
Large international organizations like the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the World Bank have multi-pronged programs to research, provide advice, and fund programs aimed at improving lives. In addition, many civil society organizations (representing nongovernmental and non-business interests) target specific issues at a local level.
What can I do?
The easiest thing you can do is to learn how to take care of yourself to prevent illnesses you can avoid. A study by the World Bank found that proper hand-washing reduces some illnesses (intestinal afflictions, for example) by up to 50% in developing regions.
You can inform yourself about crucial areas like reproductive health, mental health, and behaviors that can put you at unnecessary risk for disease. Learn how to seek treatment for physical and mental conditions.
You can also take action against health problems on a larger scale by getting involved and volunteering with one of the many organizations that have physical, mental, or social well-being as a goal.For more information: Health, Nutrition and Population