Poor Health, Malnutrition and Disease

The right to health is one of a set of internationally agreed human rights standards, and is inseparable or ‘indivisible’ from these other rights. This means achieving the right to health is both central to, and dependent upon, the realisation of other human rights, to food, housing, work, education, information, and participation.

The right to health, as with other rights, includes both freedoms and entitlements:

- Freedoms include the right to control one’s health and body (for example, sexual and reproductive rights) and to be free from interference (for example, free from torture and non-consensual medical treatment and experimentation).

- Entitlements include the right to a system of health protection that gives everyone an equal opportunity to enjoy the highest attainable level of health.[Source: WHO]

What has not improved

Progress has stalled or trends are in the wrong direction for five of the 29 health-related SDG indicators for which trends are reported: the proportion of children aged under 5 years who are overweight, malaria incidence, harmful use of alcohol, deaths from road traffic injuries, and water-sector official development assistance. [Source: World Health Statistics 2019 - Overview]


Million Deaths Worldwide

Of the 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years. [Source: WHO]

Million Lives

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.0 million lives in 2016, while lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths. Diabetes killed 1.6 million people in 2016, up from less than 1 million in 2000. Deaths due to dementias more than doubled between 2000 and 2016, making it the 5th leading cause of global deaths in 2016 compared to 14th in 2000. [Source: WHO]

Million Deaths Worldwide

Lower respiratory infections remained the most deadly communicable disease, causing 3.0 million deaths worldwide in 2016. The death rate from diarrhoeal diseases decreased by almost 1 million between 2000 and 2016, but still caused 1.4 million deaths in 2016. Similarly, the number of tuberculosis deaths decreased during the same period, but is still among the top 10 causes with a death toll of 1.3 million. HIV/AIDS is no longer among the world’s top 10 causes of death, having killed 1.0 million people in 2016 compared with 1.5 million in 2000. Road injuries killed 1.4 million people in 2016, about three-quarters (74%) of whom were men and boys. [Source: WHO]

Disparities in health outcomes

Life expectancy at birth in low-income countries is 18.1 years lower than in high-income countries. Much of this difference is attributable to preventable and treatable conditions. [Source: World Health Statistics 2019 - Overview]

1 in41

Women Die

In low-income countries, one in 41 women die from maternal causes. Such deaths rarely occur in uppermiddle and high-income countries. Maternal deaths contribute more to differences in life expectancy in low-income countries between men and women than any other single cause.
1 out of14

Children Die

In low-income countries, more than a third of children are stunted (short for their age), reflecting long- term nutritional deprivation, and one child out of every 14 born will die before his or her fifth birthday.

Years Lower

In 2016, life expectancy in men was 4.4 years lower than for women, with higher death rates for multiple causes, especially cardiovascular diseases, road injuries, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke. Men are generally exposed to increased occupational risks, and have higher prevalence of tobacco use and higher per capita consumption of alcohol. In many settings, men use health services less than women, even after taking into account reproductive-related consultations. The health gap between men and women is widest in high-income countries.