Unequal access to health services generates disparities in life expectancy: WHO


  • Where women can access health services, maternal deaths decrease, increasing the life expectancy of women.
  • In many circumstances, men have less access to health care than women.
  • Men are much more likely to die from preventable and treatable noncommunicable diseases and from traffic accidents.
  • Difference of 18.1 years in life expectancy among the poorest and richest countries.

Women survive men everywhere – particularly in rich countries. The World Health Statistics 2019 – disaggregated by sex for the first time – explains why.

"Breaking the data by age, gender, and income group is vital to understanding who is being left behind and why," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

"Behind every number in World Health Statistics is a person, a family, a community or a nation. Our task is to use this data to make evidence-based policy decisions that bring us closer to a healthier, safer and fairer world for all. "

The difference between the life expectancy of men and women is lower, where women do not have access to health services. In low-income countries, where services are scarcer, 1 in 41 women die from maternal cause, compared with 1 in 3300 in high-income countries. In over 90% of low-income countries, there are fewer than four nurses and midwives per thousand people.

Attitudes to health care differ. Where men and women face the same disease, men often seek less health care than women. In countries with a widespread HIV epidemic, for example, men are less likely than women to be tested for HIV, less likely to have access to antiretroviral therapy, and more likely to die from AIDS-related women. Similarly, patients with male TB appear to be less likely to seek care than female tuberculosis patients.

The report also highlights the difference in causes of death among men and women – some biological, some influenced by environmental and social factors, and some affected by the availability and acceptance of health services.

Of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 causes contribute more to reducing life expectancy in men than women. By 2016, the probability of a 30-year-old dying of a noncommunicable disease before age 70 was 44% higher in men than in women.

Overall suicide mortality rates were 75% higher for males than for females in 2016. Traffic fatality rates are twice as high for males as for females for 15 years, and death rates for homicide are four times greater in men. women.

Published to coincide with World Health Day on April 7, which this year focuses on primary health care as the basis of universal health coverage, new WHO statistics highlight the need to improve access to primary health care throughout the world and increase adherence.

"One of WHO's three billion goals is for an additional 1 billion people to have universal health coverage by 2023," Tedros said. "This means improving access to services, especially at the community level, and ensuring that these services are accessible, accessible and effective for all – regardless of gender."

"These statistics underscore the need to urgently prioritize primary health care to effectively manage noncommunicable diseases and reduce risk factors," said Dr. Samira Asma, assistant director general for data, analysis and delivery at WHO. "For example, something as simple as controlling blood pressure is simply not happening at the required scale and tobacco use remains the leading cause of premature death."

Life expectancy has improved since 2000

Between 2000 and 2016, overall life expectancy at birth increased 5.5 years, from 66.5 to 72.0 years. Healthy life expectancy at birth – the number of years expected to live in full health increased from 58.5 years in 2000 to 63.3 years in 2016.

Life expectancy remains strongly affected by income. In low-income countries, life expectancy is 18.1 years lower than in high-income countries. One child out of every 14 born in a low-income country will die before the fifth birthday.

For the first time this year, WHO Global Health Statistics were disaggregated by sex. This new analysis provided insight into the health and needs of people around the world. But many countries still struggle to provide information disaggregated by gender.

"Closing data gaps will be accelerated and it is important to close the gender gap," said Dr. Richard Cibulskis, lead author of the report. "Collecting, analyzing and using good quality disaggregated data is essential to improving people's health and well-being. Health policy and practice must be sustained by robust and reliable data generated in countries. "


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