BY OUR REPORTER
KAMPALA, UGANDA – Life expectancy is growing in Uganda but the country continues to struggle with communicable diseases like HIV and malaria, as well as neonatal ailments that kill infants according to a study released in Seattle United States.
“Life expectancy in Uganda is growing, but communicable diseases like HIV, malaria, and lower respiratory infection are still taking the lives of far too many Ugandans.
“Children are at particular risk, and neonatal ailments like sepsis, pre-term birth, and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants.
“There is still a lot of work to be done by all concerned stakeholders and players in ensuring that the health of the people of Uganda is further improved to achieve even better strides towards improving the quality of life and our life expectancy as a nation,” said Dr. Dan Kajungu, Executive Director – Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP)
Globally, countries have saved more lives over the past decade, especially among children under age 5, but persistent health problems, such as obesity, conflict, and mental illness, comprise a “triad of troubles,” and prevent people from living long, healthy lives, according to a new scientific study.
This year’s version of the annual Global Burden of Diseases Study (GBD) is composed of five peer-reviewed papers, and was published in the international medical journal The Lancet.
The five papers provide in-depth analyses of life expectancy and mortality; causes of death, overall disease burden, years lived with disability, and risk factors that lead to health loss.
The study’s main findings for Uganda include a Ugandan man born in 2016 can expect to live 59.8 years, an increase in life expectancy of 8 years over the past decade. A woman has a life expectancy of 64.8 years, up 9.2 years from 2006.
But, illness and injuries take away years of healthy life. A Ugandan male born in 2016 will live approximately 52.5 years in good health; a female only 56.3 years.
“The top five causes of premature death in Uganda are HIV, malaria, lower respiratory infection, neonatal encephalopathy, and tuberculosis. The ailments that cause illness can be very different. Iron-deficiency anemia, depression, and back pain are the top causes of years that people live with disability in Uganda,” the study found.
The study adds that deaths of children under 5 are a persistent health challenge. For every 1,000 live births, 62.4 Ugandan children under the age of 5 die. That far exceeds both the global figure of 38.4 and the eastern sub-Saharan Africa average of 59.6. Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania all have lower rates of under-5 death.
“Moreover, in 2016, for the first time in modern history, fewer than 5 million children under age 5 died in one year, as compared to 1990 when 11 million died.”
Researchers attribute this global health landmark to improvements in increased educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programs, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water and sanitation, and a wide array of other health programs funded by development funding for health.
“Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
“But, we’ve been much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses. A ‘triad of troubles’ – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders – poses a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyles.”
Despite progress on reducing deaths, this “triad of troubles” – obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders – is preventing further progress.
One of the most alarming risks in the GBD is excess body weight. The rate of illness related to people being too heavy is rising quickly, and the disease burden can be found in all socio demographic levels. High body mass index (BMI) is the fourth largest contributor to the loss of healthy life, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood sugar.
The GBD is the largest and most comprehensive epidemiological effort to quantify health loss across places and over time. It draws on the work of over 2,500 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories. IHME coordinates the study. This year, more than 13 billion data points are included; the papers comprise a complete edition of The Lancet.
This year’s GBD improves upon the previous annual update through new data, improvements in methodology, and a measure for tracking completeness of vital registration information.