(Information for this article has been obtained from: The Central European Journal of Public Health, 2009, Volume 17, Issue 4—http://www1.szu.cz/, which is a peer-reviewed publication.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) news release, published in October 2009, life expectancy worldwide could be lengthened by almost five years if the following risk factors were aggressively dealt with: high blood pressure, sanitation and hygiene, unsafe water supplies, excessive use of alcohol, unsafe sex practices, and children being underweight. These six factors alone cause 15 million of the 60 million deaths that occur annually around the world.
Five Broad Health-Risk Categories
There are, however, 24 factors, in total that negatively impact people’s health. These 24 risk factors, though, can be subsumed under five very broad categories, including: poor nutrition, the use of tobacco products, physiological factors such as maladies caused by water or air pollution, behavioral factors, and environmental factors.
Many Illnesses and Early Deaths Caused by More than One Risk Factor
Notably, numerous illnesses, and early deaths, are attributable to more than one risk factor and can all be significantly reduced by lessening any one of the risk elements which cause them. More than a third of all childhood deaths globally, for example, are directly linked to nutritional factors such as: zinc deficiency, insufficient breast feeding, and low childhood weight. Diarrhea and cholera also contribute significantly to the death of children in developing countries.
Coronary Heart Disease is the World's Leading Cause of Death
Eight risk factors, moreover, cause three-quarters of all coronary heart disease cases worldwide and include: sedentary life-styles, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high levels of cholesterol, a high body-mass index, high blood pressure, the use of tobacco products, high levels of blood glucose, and the excessive drinking of alcohol. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world, with most of those deaths occurring in developing countries.
Relative Importance of Health-Risk Factors Should be Measured
It is extremely important, notes the WHO’s Dr. Colin Mathers, that national governments measure “…the relative importance of health-risk factors…” to ascertain which public-health policies and strategies would best meet the needs of their people. “In many countries, says Dr. Mathers, there is a complex mix of risk factors. Countries can combine this type of evidence along with information about policies and their costs to decide how to set their health agenda.”
Other findings from the World Health Organization include the following:
- 45% of all cancer deaths worldwide are linked to nine environmental and environmental risks and seven infectious causes.
- Being overweight or obese causes more deaths than being underweight does.
- 25% of all childhood deaths, globally, are attributable to unhealthy and unsafe environments.
- Nearly 75% of all lung-cancer deaths around the world are caused by smoking.
- In poverty-stricken nations, easily correctable nutritional deficiencies prevent 1 in 38 infants from reaching the age of five.
- The 10 leading preventable heath risks shorten life span by nearly seven years in developed countries and by nearly 10 years throughout most of Africa.
Further information concerning the leading causes of premature death worldwide can be obtained from the following WHO web site: http://www.who.int/