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new report says millions of premature deaths can be prevented by tackling
global health risks. The World Health Organization reports global life
expectancy could be increased by nearly five years by addressing five factors
affecting health. VOA Correspondent reports from WHO headquarters in Geneva.
The report says five leading global health risks are responsible for one
quarter of the deaths every year. They include childhood underweight, unsafe
sex, alcohol use, lack of safe water, hygiene and sanitation, and high blood
The study describes 24 factors affecting health. These are a mixture of
environmental, behavioral and physiological factors, such as air pollution,
tobacco use and poor nutrition.
Technical Officer at the World Health Organization, Gretchen Stevens tells VOA
the report deals with both chronic and infectious diseases, as well as the risks posed by lifestyle. She said “
first one they mentioned was childhood underweight and that basically happens
when children do not get enough to eat or nutritious enough food. And, that
increases their likelihood of getting an infectious disease and dying from it
... Some of the other ones I mentioned, for example, high blood pressure really
affects chronic diseases such as heart disease."
Stevens says high blood pressure is actually the leading killer of all the risk
factors considered, causing 7.5 million deaths each year. She notes
blood-pressure levels, surprisingly, are quite high in sub-Saharan Africa, the
region most seriously affected in the world.
She says mortality rates in Africa are very high because of the unsafe sex risk
factor, which causes HIV/AIDS, as well as childhood underweight and unsafe
water and sanitation risk factors.
"And, another region that is really heavily affected are the developing
countries in the European region. Those are basically the former countries of
the USSR. And, a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease really have
a very large impact on health in those countries. For example, alcohol-use,
high blood pressure and high cholesterol," Ms. Stevens added.
The report says many deaths and diseases are caused by more than one risk
factor and may be prevented by reducing any one of them.
For example, it says eight risk factors alone account for more than 75 percent
of cases of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. These
include alcohol consumption, tobacco use, high blood pressure and physical
says eliminating some or all of the risk factors could add years to a person's