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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – November 4, 2002: World Health Report 2002 - 2002-11-01

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The life expectancy of people around the world could increase by five to ten years if action against common health risks is taken. This is one of the findings in this year’s World Health Report released recently by the World Health Organization. The report is called “Reducing Risks, Promoting Life.”

Researchers found that ten major threats to good health are common around the world. The chief of the World Health Organization, Gro Harlem Brundtland, called them the ten leading killers. They include unsafe sex, poor nutrition, high blood pressure, use of tobacco and alcohol, unsafe water and unclean living conditions. Also included are high levels of dangerous fat in the blood, indoor smoke from solid fuels, a lack of iron in the body and too much body weight, or obesity. Together, these ten health risks make up forty percent of the fifty-six-million deaths worldwide each year.

Doctor Brundtland called for reducing the ten main health risks by twenty-five percent within ten years. If this were done, life expectancy in industrial countries could increase by ten years. In developing countries, it could increase by five years.

Currently, the number of life years lost because of these health risks differs around the world. Doctor Brundtland says the differences these health risks create between rich and poor nations are shocking. For example, about one-hundred-seventy-million children in poor countries are underweight. They do not weigh enough because they do not get enough food. However, more than one-thousand-million adults around the world are too fat. These people are mostly in rich, industrial countries.

Doctor Brundtland warns that the cost of inaction is serious. For example, she says nine-million deaths a year linked to smoking will be reported by two-thousand-twenty if steps are not taken soon. Currently, about five-million people die each year from diseases related to smoking.

Doctor Brundtland says that AIDS and the H-I-V virus are having a huge effect on the length of life in Africa. Currently, life expectancy at birth in southern Africa is forty-seven years. The W-H-O estimates that ninety-five percent of H-I-V infections in Africa were caused by unsafe sex. She says there is an urgent need for sex education and the use of condom devices to prevent the spread of H-I-V.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss [adapted from a VOA report by Michael Drudge].