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Global life expectancy can
be increased by almost five years and millions of premature deaths prevented if
five risk factors affecting health are addressed, according to a report by the
World Health Organization.
The report says five risk factors -- poor childhood nutrition, unsafe sex,
alcohol, bad sanitation and hygiene, and high blood pressure -- are responsible
for one quarter of deaths worldwide every year.
It says addressing those risks can increase global life expectancy by nearly
five years and prevent premature deaths in the millions.
Stephen Morrison is director of Global Health Policy at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
He says the report shows that the developing world is carrying a double burden
of infectious disease and chronic disorders. The chronic illnesses stem from
lifestyle issues. "It says that if you really care about health outcomes as a matter of
strategy, you have to begin paying higher attention to how the developing world
and emerging markets will come to terms with alcohol, tobacco, obesity, with
inactivity.", he added.
Eight risk factors account for over 75 percent of cases of coronary heart
disease, the leading killer worldwide, the report says.
Heart disease was once primarily associated with rich countries, but most of
these deaths now occur in developing nations.
As poor countries struggle with chronic disorders, experts believe they
can learn from developed countries that have experience dealing with these
The Global Health Risks report describes 24 factors affecting health. They are
a mixture of environmental, behavioral, and physiological factors, including
air pollution and tobacco use.
WHO also warns that in developing countries, poor nutrition is a significant
health risk but obesity and being overweight are even greater risks in richer
countries because they cause more deaths than being underweight.