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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. 1990 Oct; 80(10):1188-92.Health trends since 1950 in both developed and developing countries are classified and discussed in terms of causative factors: socioeconomic development, cross-national influences and growth of national health systems. Despite the vast differences in scale of health statistics between developed and developing countries, economic hardships and high military expenditures, all nations have demonstrated significant declines in life expectancy and infant mortality rates. Social and economic factors that influenced changes included independence from colonial rule in Africa and Asia and emergence from feudalism in China, industrialization, rising gross domestic product per capita and urbanization. An example of economic development is doubling to tripling of commercial energy consumption per capita. Social advancement is evidenced by higher literacy rates, school enrollments and education of women. Cross-national influences that improved overall health include international trade, spread of technology, and the universal acceptance of the idea that health is a human right. National health systems in developing countries are receiving increasing shares of the GNP. Total health expenditure by government is highly correlated with life expectancy. The view of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that health care should be privatized is a step backward with anti-egalitarian consequences. The UN Economic Commission for Africa attacked the IMF and the World Bank for promoting private sector funding of health care stating that this leads to lower standards of living and poorer health among the disadvantaged. Suggested health strategies for the future should involve effective action in the public sector: adequate financial support of national health systems; political commitment to health as the basis of national security; citizen involvement in policy and planning; curtailing of smoking, alcohol, drugs and violence; elimination of environmental and toxic hazards; and maximum international collaboration.
WORLD HEALTH. 1988 Jan-Feb; 10-11.In 1979 WHO invited its member states to participate in a global strategy for health and to monitor and evaluate its effectiveness using a minimum of 12 indicators. Members' 1982 implementation reports and 1985 evaluation reports form the basis for evaluating each measure. Indicators 1-6 have strong political and economic components in both developed and developing countries and are not complete. Indicator 7, for which rates of reply are satisfactory, asks whether at least 5 elements of primary health care are available to the whole population. The 8th gauge seeks information on the nutritional status of children, considering birth weight (a possible indicator of risk) and weight for age (a monitor of growth). Infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth, indicators 9 and 10, are difficult to estimate in developing countries, and health services are not always kept informed of current estimates. Indicator 11 asks whether the literacy rate exceeds 70%; it can provide information on level of development and should emphasize literacy for women, for whom health information is critical. The last global measure yields information about the gross national product, which is not always the most recent, despite the trend of countries to publish their gross domestic product. Failure to make use of the best national sources, such as this, is one of several problems encountered by WHO's member states in collecting accurate data. Other problems include lack of universally acceptable definitions, different national accounting systems, disinterest of health authorities in economic matters, lack of staff, lack of financial resources in developing countries, and inadequately structured health system management. Each country must choose the most appropriate methods for collection of data. If an indicator cannot be calculated, the country is encouraged to seek and devise a substitute. WHO must produce more precise and reliable indicators. It must respond to requests for ways of improving or strengthening national systems.