New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 331

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Health hazard / FACTS

Health: the facts
What determines your health or the
lack of it is often your daily life - your job,
your social status, your self-esteem, your
neighbourhood, your environment.
NI investigates who gets sick and why.

Social inequality
As economic disparity between rich and poor grows, the health of everyone – but particularly the poorest – suffers.1,2

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The greater the inequality, the lower the life expectancy.
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Photo: Peter Stalker Drug Company Priorities3
[image, unknown] Of the 1,240 new drugs that were licensed between 1975 and 1996 only 13 dealt with the world’s killer diseases that primarily afflict people from tropical and poor countries.
[image, unknown] By the late 1990s every day 3,000 children were dying of malaria, 90 per cent of them in Africa. No major pharmaceutical company in 1999 had its own malaria research programme.
[image, unknown] Some 200 million people alive in 1998 will eventually develop tuberculosis – exceeding the total number of cases in the entire nineteenth century. In 1998 there was no TB drug in the research pipelines of any major pharmaceutical or biotechnology company.
[image, unknown] The profit margin of Viagra (to enhance sexual
activity) is 98 per cent.

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Liba Taylor / Panos Pictures

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Cars and trucks
[image, unknown] Each year 60,000 people in the US and 10,000 people in England and Wales die due to vehicle emissons.5
[image, unknown] In the Canadian province of Ontario the Medical Association predicts that premature deaths due to deteriorating air quality will climb fom 1,200 today to over 2,500 a year by 2020.

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[image, unknown] Causes of death
[image, unknown] Nearly four million children a year die of acute respiratory infections resulting from air pollution.8
[image, unknown] Around 2.5 million children die from diarrheal disease linked to environmental conditions such as poor water.9

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Perils in progress
[image, unknown] Malaria, which now affects 45 per cent of the world’s population, is likely to affect 60 per cent by the middle of this century due to global warming.13
[image, unknown] Some 40 possible carcinogens can appear in drinking water, 60 are released by industry into ambient air and 66 are routinely sprayed on food crops as pesticides.8
[image, unknown] Five million people suffer acute
pesticide poisoning in the poor South
each year.15
[image, unknown] In the US a billion kilograms of toxic chemicals were released into the environment in 1994 of which 80 million kilograms were known or suspected carcinogens.10
[image, unknown] [image, unknown] A minority of people who die from tobacco use have suffered lung cancer. The majority die from one or other of 25 different diseases, including heart disease and stroke.12
a Worldwide tobacco-related illnesses are
estimated to cost nearly $200 billion a year in direct healthcare expenses and lost productivity. A third of these costs ($66 billion) is borne by poor countries.14

Sources:
1 Unhealthy Societies, Richard Wilkinson, Routledge, London 1996.
2 op.cit.
3 Betrayal of Trust : the collapse of global public health, Laurie Garrett, Hyperion, New York 2000.
4 The World Health Report 2000, The World Health Organization, Geneva.
5 The Perils of Progress; John Ashton and Ron Laura, Fernwood Books, Halifax 1997.
6 op. cit.
7 World Development Report, 1998/99, World Bank, Washington.
8 Living Downstream, Sandra Steingraber, Virago Press,1998.
9 Poor Environment, Poor Health, Elena Johnson, Alternatives Magazine, Summer 1999.
10 Steingraber op. cit.
11 Preventing chronic diseases in developing countries, State of the World 1997, Worldwatch Foundation,Washington, DC
12 op. cit. State of the World.
13 Perils of Progress op. cit.
14 State of the World op. cit.
15 Alternatives op. cit.


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