Health has improved, but not for everyone. What is the health landscape and what challenges do you expect in this new year? We reviewed 5 key issues that will continue to demand priority attention in the public health agenda of the region.

1. Life Expectancy:

Globally, life expectancy has increased to 73.8 years for women and 69.1 for men. Despite this difference, women face worse health conditions . Beyond that, there is another trap. Longer life expectancy, greater challenges for health systems, particularly in countries with a large proportion of older adults such as Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica. For example, it is expected that by 2050, 2 billion people will be over 60 years of age and the number of elderly people that will require support to carry out daily activities will quadruple . Also, living longer does not necessarily mean living better, as the case of Mexico shows, where the deterioration of the health status of the elderly has become a challenge.

2. Chronic Diseases:

The main causes of death, responsible for almost 70% of deaths in the world are:

1) Cardiovascular Diseases

2) Cancer

3) Diabetesand

4) Pulmonary Diseases

This is due to the increase in risk factors, including the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, sedentary lifestyle, foods high in non-nutritive caloric content and the reduction in the prevalence of communicable diseases. None of these conditions discriminates by age, since any person can suffer them, but the prevalence of chronic diseases does increase with age. It would seem that socioeconomic status influences even more. For example, in Latin America there are worrying levels of overweight in adults and even, childhood obesity in lower income households.

3. Mental Health:

In the last 23 years the number of patients in the world with depression or anxiety has increased by 50% . Thats not all. In 2016, major depressive disorders were among the 10 leading causes of illness in almost every country in the world, except for 4. These data, already alarming in themselves, are aggravated if we consider that chronic sadness , another name perhaps less taboo for Depression, and anxiety, have fatal consequences, suicide . Almost 800,000 people commit suicide every year and is the second cause of deathamong young people Prevention is not an impossible dream. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that in almost 50% of cases, it is possible to identify mental disorders before the age of 14. Finally, we can not forget the outstanding debt with the women who dominated public opinion in 2017. The ravages of sexist violence lead to serious consequences for the mental health of the victims, including suicidal thoughts and the aforementioned depressive and anxiety disorders. These data should shake us: in Latin America, 12 women die every day because they are women.

4. Maternal And Child Health:

The neonatal mortality rate is not decreasing in time to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, set for 2030. In fact, the proportion of deaths of children during the first month of life is increasing . What could save up to 22,216 babies per year? One option is exclusive breastfeeding . Of course, the definitive solution to reduce the mortality of both children and their mothers is greater and better coverage of qualified prenatal care , accompanied by a good dose of cost-efficient innovation. Novel inventions such as the intrauterine balloon, with a cost of only 5 USD dollars, could prevent hemorrhages during childbirth that in 2015 claimed the lives of 1,344 women in Latin America. Local solutions also have a lot to contribute. Nicaragua and Honduras have managed to reduce their maternal mortality rates by 102 and 182 deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively, to less than the 85 average in the region.

5. Disability:

More than one billion people in the world have some kind of disability. They face multiple discriminatory scenarios to access education and health services or enter the labor market. In fact, almost 26 million live on less than a dollar a day and 5.6% are children , making them triply vulnerable. People in low-income countries and areas (many of them in our region), women and the elderly tend to be more vulnerable to disability. Between Latin America, Africa and Asia, for example, are 30 million people who need professional attention for rehabilitation in cases of physical disability. The good news is that the more we raise our voice about this reality, the more opportunities there are for innovation to come forward and offer viable solutions.

After these 5 points that remain to be resolved, let’s talk about something positive: innovation in the field of health. Dear readers are warned, this year we will touch the topic a lot. Not merely to join the global trends, but because we know that it is a tangible tool whose potential to improve lives we are already seeing in Latin America and the Caribbean . From 3D prostheses and cloud computing for telemedicine, to crowdsourcing and intelligent mapping to combat mosquito-borne diseases.

And it’s not just about technology. It is time to break paradigms and use creativity to adapt to the needs of people, from hospitals to the most remote corners . In addition to the positive examples mentioned throughout this post, programs such as conditional transfers in our region have also done a great part to improve the health of children and young people.

But, as is evident, much remains to be done. The more we know about health challenges, the more proactive we can be to provide a timely response. We have another year to try again. What do you commit to do for your health and that of your family this year?

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