WHO is preparing to publish the 2023 edition of its annual World Health Statistics report, offering fresh insights into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest statistics on advancements toward health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
With data up to 2022, the report underscores a lack of significant improvement in key health indicators in recent years, in contrast to the positive trends witnessed during 2000-2015. It also underscores the increasing threats posed by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and climate change, urging a unified and fortified approach to address these challenges.
The report reveals the impact of the pandemic on global health, leading to a regression in the progress towards the SDGs. During the period from 2020 to 2021, COVID-19 caused a staggering loss of 336.8 million years of life worldwide, with an average of 22 years of life lost for each additional death. This unfortunate consequence abruptly truncated the lives of millions of individuals.
Nonetheless, there have been notable advancements in maternal and child health, including a reduction of one-third in maternal deaths and a halving of child deaths since 2000. The occurrence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and malaria has witnessed a decrease, accompanied by a reduced likelihood of premature mortality caused by NCDs or noncommunicable diseases and injuries. Consequently, there has been an increase in global life expectancy from sixty-seven years in 2000 to seventy-three years in 2019.
However, the pandemic has disrupted various health indicators and contributed to inequalities in accessing high-quality healthcare, routine immunizations, and financial protection. As a result, the favourable progress in addressing malaria and tuberculosis (TB) has been reversed, leading to a decline, and there has been a decrease in the number of individuals receiving treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Noncommunicable diseases represent an increasingly significant health threat for future generations. Although overall health progress has been made, NCDs now account for nearly three-quarters of all annual deaths. If this trend continues, it is projected that NCDs will be responsible for around 86% of the 90 million deaths occurring each year by the middle of the century. Consequently, 77 million of these deaths will be attributed to NCDs, signifying an almost 90% increase in absolute numbers since 2019.
The report highlights a stagnation in progress, necessitating accelerated efforts. Recent trends show a slowdown in the annual rate of reduction for many indicators. For instance, the global maternal mortality ratio must decline by 11.6% per year between 2021 and 2030 to meet the SDG target. Similarly, the reduction in TB incidence from 2015 to 2021 was only one-fifth of the way towards the 2025 milestone of WHO’s End TB Strategy.
Despite reductions in health risks like tobacco use, alcohol consumption, violence, unsafe water and sanitation, and child stunting, progress has been insufficient. Exposure to risks such as air pollution remains high. Obesity prevalence is increasing without any immediate signs of reversal. Moreover, access to essential health services has slowed compared to gains made prior to 2015, and there has been no significant progress in reducing the financial burden of healthcare costs. These challenges severely limit the achievement of Universal Health Coverage by 2030.
The latest report incorporates a distinct segment addressing the intersection of climate change and health, marking its inaugural inclusion and underscoring its increasing significance. The availability of accurate, timely, and disaggregated data is of paramount importance in monitoring advancements and enhancing both national and global health policies across various domains, including this particular concern.