Parities and disparities in attaining global health: the way forward for developing countries
The 20th Century witnessed a revolution in human health and well being. Average life expectancy at birth in many industrialized countries nearly doubled from around 45 years in 1900 to more than 70 years in 1999 (UN, 1976). Less developed counties also enjoyed dramatic, albeit less extensive, improvements in living standards and declines in mortality. However, as some health threats have receded, others have emerged. Some disease causing microbes have become resistant to medicines commonly used to treat them. Aspects of modern life appear to encourage unhealthy behavior, such as smoking, high fat diets and risky sexual practices. And, there is substantial gap in mortality and disability among and within countries. A growing recognition of this disparity prompted the World Health Organization to mount an international effort to attain "health for all" (WHO, 2000). This paper looks at trends in health over the past century and identifies the ways that nations could adopt to pursue the goal of better global health. It explores the multiple factors that determine health, stressing the need for action from the individual to the international level to improve health.