Health

World lags badly on targets to slash HIV, obesity, study finds

Sunday, September 17, 2017

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Not a single country, out of nearly 200 reviewed, was on track to meet the UN target of eliminating new tuberculosis infections by 2030, according to a global health review published last Wednesday.

At the same time, less than five per cent of countries were likely to reach the UN goal of reducing suicides, road deaths and child obesity by that date, and only seven per cent would likely eliminate new HIV infections.

Overall, only a fifth of 37 health-related targets set under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, are likely to be met, said the review carried by The Lancet medical journal.

“A number of targets remained out of reach for most countries,” the authors wrote.

Under the review, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 2,500 researchers from around the world scored the health progress of 188 countries and projected their trajectory to 2030.

The projections “underscore the need for dramatic, if not unprecedented, acceleration of progress to improve health outcomes, reduce risk exposure, and expand essential health services for all countries,” the authors said.

The team found “considerable inequality” between projections for rich and poor countries.

High-income countries were forecast to meet 38 per cent of the UN's health-related targets, compared to three per cent for low-income states.

They also were not dealing with the same problems.

Poor countries fared poorly on maternal mortality, child stunting, malaria, and environmental risks that affected rich nations less.

But when it comes to lifestyle problems, many high-income countries, including the United States, fared poorly on measures for suicide, alcohol abuse and homicide.

Looking to the future, the review said efforts to eradicate malaria and reduce deaths of infants and pregnant women were among the most promising, with more than 60 per cent of countries projected to meet UN goals for all three.

“On the basis of current trends, Kazakhstan, Timor-Leste, Angola, Nigeria, and Swaziland were projected to have the largest overall improvements,” the team said in a statement.

This was driven by cuts in child mortality and better access to health care, family planning and birth assistance.

Countries expected to lose ground — considering trends for child obesity and alcohol abuse — included Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The report named China and Cambodia among middle- and low-income countries deserving of “recognition for improving their citizens' lives”.

The same countries — along with Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, and Turkey — recorded the biggest improvements in universal health care between 2000 and 2016, which translated into better vaccine coverage, as well as fewer child deaths and malaria infections.

The United States, on the other hand, joined Lesotho and the Central African Republic among countries showing “minimal improvement” in universal health care, said the team.

This is a controversial topic in the United States, where Donald Trump's Administration is seeking to undo Barack Obama's expansion of health care coverage.

Singapore, Iceland and Sweden were the best-performing countries in terms of health-related Sustainable Development Goals, according to the review.

Somalia, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan ranked lowest.

The United States was rated 24th overall with poor marks for suicide, child sex abuse, alcohol abuse and homicide, while China ranked 74th with low scores for air pollution, road injuries, poisoning, and smoking.

India was at number 127 with poor performance on air pollution, sanitation and acute childhood malnutrition.

The review was published ahead of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly opening in New York Tuesday.

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