1. The world population is not only living longer but living healthier
Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy (HALE) have both increased by over 8% globally between 2000 and 2016, and remain profoundly influenced by income. Despite the largest gains in both indicators being due primarily to the progress made in reducing child mortality and fighting infectious diseases, low-income and lower-middle-income countries continue to suffer from the poorest overall health outcomes, lagging far behind the global average.
To effectively sustain the progress in ensuring longer and healthier lives, timely and effective health policies and interventions are needed to minimize the potential direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy, due to excess mortality, and on HALE for populations of different ages, especially among older adults.
2. The overall improvements in health move along the fault lines created by inequalities and echo the status and the progress made towards universal health coverage
Overall access to essential health services improved from 2000 to 2017, with the strongest increase in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Yet, service coverage in low- and middle-income countries remains well below coverage in wealthier ones. Due to the serious inadequacy of service coverage in low-resource settings, the overall access to essential health services is still way below optimum. Only between one third and one half of the world’s population was able to obtain essential health services in 2017. The inability to pay for health care poses another major challenge.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only draws into focus the need to rebuild resilient health systems with increased access to quality health services, lowered financial cost and a strengthened health workforce, but also calls for the provision of services such as routine vaccinations and basic hygiene and sanitation.
3. Compared with the advances against communicable diseases, there has been inadequate progress in preventing and controlling noncommunicable diseases
Rapid epidemiological transition and demographic changes have shifted the disease burden from those that received attention in the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) era to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), particularly in lowand middle-income countries where delivery of effective NCD interventions remains an overwhelming challenge to health systems. In 2016, NCDs accounted for 71% of all global deaths, and 85% of the 15 million premature deaths (deaths between ages 30 and 70) occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Despite the increase in the proportion of all deaths due to NCDs, the overall rate of NCD-related premature deaths has been declining in the past two decades, but progress has slowed since 2010. Premature mortality from NCD parallels, and can partly be attributed to, a lack of success in addressing many NCD risk factors. Although tobacco use is steadily declining, the prevalence of obesity is on the rise and reduction in harmful alcohol consumption has stagnated globally and is increasing in some regions.
In the event of a health emergency such as COVID-19, patients with pre-existing NCD conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, become more vulnerable and at higher risk of dying, not only because they are more susceptible to the virus but also due to the medical resources that have to be directed towards caring for patients with COVID-19. This makes addressing risk factors to prevent NCDs such as obesity, mental health conditions, in the first place even more crucial.
4. Investing in strengthening country health information systems to improve timeliness of
data could have the greatest positive impact and is vital for countries to monitor progress
Accurate, timely, and comparable health-related statistics are essential for understanding population health trends.
Decision-makers need the information to develop appropriate policies, allocate resources and prioritize interventions.For almost a fifth of countries, over half of the indicators have no recent primary or direct underlying data. Data gaps and lags prevent from truly understanding who is being included or left aside and take timely and appropriate action. The existing SDG indicators address a broad range of health aspects but do not capture the breadth of population health outcomes and determinants. Monitoring and evaluating population health thus goes beyond the indicators covered in this report and often requires additional and improved measurements.
WHO is committed to supporting Member States to make improvements in surveillance and health information systems. These improvements will enhance the scope and quality of health information and standardize processes to generate comparable estimates at the global level.
Getting accurate data on COVID-19 related deaths has been a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the serious gaps in timely, reliable, accessible and actionable data and measurements that compromise preparedness, prevention and response to health emergencies. The International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) monitoring framework is one of the data collection tools that have demonstrated value in evaluating and building country capacities to prevent, detect, assess, report and respond to public health emergencies. From self-assessment of the 13 core capacities in 2019, countries have shown steady progress across almost all capacities including surveillance, laboratory and coordination. As the pandemic progresses, objective and comparable data are crucial to determine the effectiveness of different national strategies used to mitigate and suppress, and thus to better prepare for the probable continuation of the epidemic over the next year or more.
5. Current rate of progress falls short and COVID-19 further risks getting the world off track
to achieve SDGs
Prevention and treatment coverage have substantially improved for major infectious diseases, maternal, neonatal and child health care, leading to steady decline in incidence and mortality from these diseases in the past two decades. However, the current rate of change is insufficient to reach the 2030 SDG targets. Preserving progress made, constant vigilance, early detection and monitoring, a unified national response (in coordination with global partners) and, rapidly scaling up solutions for high risk, resource limited and marginalized populations are key to achieve SDGs.