News: 10 Leading causes of Death Worldwide –latest WHO Report

WHO-world leading cause of death-data

A justified reason to focus on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the latest report outlining a list of 10 leading causes of death across the globe in the last decade for the year 2011.

Top on the list are the 2 most popular Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs): Ischaemic Heart Disease and Stroke as the most common causes of death respectively worldwide; and by a much higher margin than all the others following. The figures show that around the globe, an estimated 55 million people died in 2011 and two-third of these deaths were caused by CVDs.

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are classified among the 4 major Non-Communicable Diseases –the others are Diabetes, Cancers and Chronic Lung Diseases. These Non-Communicable Diseases are differentiated from the Communicable Diseases; because unlike the later, they typically not transmissible from person to person like infections and they generally progress slowly so often last for a long duration (hence often referred to as chronic diseases).

A striking reveal by this report is the critical fact that the incidence of CVDs has risen by 60% worldwide from year 2000, a remarkable increase in one decade!

3 in every 10 deaths  were caused by Cardiovascular Diseases, killing nearly 17 million people in 2011 -WHO

#Nigeria: Gross Health Disparity between High & Low income Countries

That Nigeria (amongst many Sub-Saharan Countries and other developing Countries) has poor health statistics is really not news anymore.

Howbeit, taking a cursory look across the WHO report, I instinctively drew up a mental picture of this table below for a useful application of the numbers, it is a simple comparison data table extracted from the comprehensive WHO Report.

P.S: The WHO report’s categorization of Country Economic Status is based on the 2011 World Bank Country Index where Nigeria belongs to the Lower-middle-income economies ($1,036 to $4,085).

  High Income Countries Low-Middle Income Countries
Children <15 years Only 1 in every 100 deaths Nearly 4 in every 10 deaths
People >70 years 7 in every 10 deaths Only 2 in every 10 deaths
Leading Causes of Death Chronic diseases: CVDs, Cancers, dementia, chronic obstructive lung disease or Diabetes. Complications of childbirth due to Prematurity, and Birth asphyxia & birth trauma(Affects mostly newborns and infants)
Diseases from infection Lower respiratory infections only Lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, Diarrhoeal diseases, Malaria and Tuberculosis.(Collectively accounts for almost one-third of all deaths here)
% Incidence of NCDs Roughly 20% (10 million) of the total global deaths from NCDs in 2011 occurred in high income countries Roughly 80% of the total global deaths from NCDs in 2011 occurred in low- and middle-income countries
Country’s proportion of NCD deaths in population 87% of all deaths were caused by NCDs – followed by upper-middle income countries (81%) Only 36% in low-income countries and 56% of the total deaths in lower-middle income countries were caused by NCDs

As children under five 5years of age top the death charts in low-middle income Countries, the report summarizes the leading causes of death as follows: Pneumonia, Prematurity, Birth asphyxia and birth trauma, and Diarrheal diseases. Malaria was still a major killer in sub-Saharan Africa, causing about 14% of under-five deaths in this part of the world. You should check out this incredible infographic created by HALA mid-last year highlighting some of these numbers.

And finally as a flicker of light, Tuberculosis is no longer among the 10 leading causes of death as at 2011 so it is not all bad news.

Complexities of Population Health: Diseases do not recognize Silos

Do we really need to know WHY people died?

If that question just crossed your mind, I will simply answer with an ABSOLUTELY YES. And here is a pristine explanation by the WHO itself:

“Measuring how many people die each year and why they died is one of the most important means – along with gauging how diseases and injuries are affecting people – for assessing the effectiveness of a country’s health system. Cause-of-death statistics help health authorities determine their focus for public health actions.”

Obviously the veracity of these vital statistics is of paramount importance which brings to the fore, how imperative it is for us to have functional systems in place for collecting and producing reliably health data. Addressing this gap in developing Countries like Nigeria is definitely a crucial step for creating effective health policies, reduce preventable deaths and ultimately improve on our current dismal health stats.


The crucial lesson from stats like this is the stark reminder of the fact that we are long overdue in addressing most of these preventable deaths. Barely a few decades ago, developing Countries like Nigeria where primarily saddled with high death tolls from infection-based diseases spread by poor hygiene, insufficient basic social amenities & inadequate access to healthcare.

Today, the bulk of our preventable deaths are still caused by these same Communicable diseases alongside with deaths from maternal, perinatal and nutritional causes. Like these were not already bad it themselves, we now account for the bulky part of deaths from the globally increasing Non-Communicable diseases (a whooping 80%)!

NEWS: Africa’s increasing Health Burden (40-50% of Hypertension patients are undiagnosed)

FREE DOWNLOAD: HALA Magazine on High Blood Pressure

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