Professor Benn Sartorius.
UKZN’s Professor Benn Sartorius is a co-author of a study describing levels and trends for mortality and non-fatal health outcomes in children and adolescents aged 19 years and younger in 195 countries from 1990 to 2015.
The study, titled: “Global Decline in Deaths Among Children, Adolescents but Progress Uneven”, aims to provide evidence for policy discussion.
This study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation as part of its Global Burden of Disease 2015 project, suggests that mortality of adolescents and children decreased at a global aggregate level from 14.2 million deaths in 1990 to 7.2 million deaths in 2015 as a result of gains made in the fight against infectious, neo-natal and nutritional disorders.
However, the research found that this global progress had been uneven by region and country. Countries with lower socio-demographic index (SDI) values experienced a greater share of deaths in 2015 compared to previous years. For example in 2015, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa experienced the highest number of deaths.
The research found that the leading causes of death were lower respiratory tract infections, congenital anomalies, birth complications, neonatal sepsis, HIV and AIDS, meningitis and malaria. In many settings this is coupled with an ongoing epidemiologic transition to the increased non-communicable diseases burden.
Moreover, it was noted that the burden of disability in adolescents and children increased to 4.3% from 1990 to 2015. This acceleration was due to ‘population growth and improved survival of children and adolescents to older ages. However, apart from this, numerous causes of disabilities are linked to long term sequelae of conditions that exist at birth such as congenital birth defects, hemoglobinopathie and neonatal disorders’.
Said Sartorius: ‘The results also suggest that reproductive and maternal health remain key instigators of the disease burden in female adolescents, especially those living in lower-SDI countries. In these countries mortality remains the most pressing outcome of health loss in this segmented group. In contrast however, in higher SDI locations, disability is the most prominent factor.
‘In the past, consistent and intentional international research and investments have led to long lasting improvements in the elimination of the causes of health loss that affect many children and adolescents in divergent countries, even though distribution of help/progress has been unequal.
‘The persistence of infectious diseases in some countries, coupled with ongoing epidemiologic transition leading to increasing burden of injury and non-communicable disease burden, requires all countries to carefully evaluate and implement appropriate strategies to maximise the health of their children and adolescents. UKZN through active collaboration is one step closer to achieving this mandate,’ he said.
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