Africa makes gains in life expectancy

Thursday September 20 2018

senior citizens

Senior citizens. There has been a significant improvement in the state of health in Africa with healthy life expectancy increasing from 50.9 years to 53.8 between 2012 and 2015. FOTOSEARCH 

By RUTH MBULA
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The World Health Organisation’s State of Health in Africa report has lauded countries like Algeria for good coverage of available health services, Cape Verde for good community demand for essential services, and resilience of health systems while Mauritius tops the list for access to services.

Namibia recorded good financial risk protection, Seychelles had good coverage of health-related services and South Africa boasted good health security.

“Countries with good practices are identified so that others can learn lessons across the different dimensions of universal health coverage and other Sustainable Development Goals health targets,” said WHO.

Under the SDGs, countries have committed to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages as well as achieving a range of health targets by 2030.

The report surmised that countries place more focus on the performance of their systems, to achieve cross-cutting and sustainable improvements in universal health coverage and other targets influencing health across the SDGs.

There has been a significant improvement in the state of health in Africa with healthy life expectancy — time spent in full health — in the region increasing from 50.9 years to 53.8 between 2012 and 2015 — the most marked increase of any region in the world.

The top killers are still lower respiratory infections, HIV and diarrhoea and countries have routinely focused on preventing and treating these, often through specialised programmes.

“Africans are now living longer and healthier lives,” said Dr Moeti. “Nearly three years of extra health is a gift that makes us all proud. We hope that these gains will continue and Africa reaches global standards.”

However, universal health coverage requires that all conditions affecting a population, not only priority conditions be improved.

Chronic ailments like heart disease and cancer are now claiming more lives with a person aged between 30 and 70 years in the region having a one in five chance of dying from a non-communicable disease.

Countries are specifically failing to provide essential services to two critical age groups — adolescents and the elderly.

As the population ages in Africa, the elderly need senior care.

However, almost a third of respondents surveyed as part of the report highlighted the absence of any services for the elderly in their countries.

“Health services must keep up with the evolving health trends in the region,” said Dr Moeti.

“In the past we focused on specific diseases as these were causing a disproportionately high number of deaths. We have been successful at stopping these threats and people’s health is now being challenged by a broad range of conditions. We need to develop a new, more holistic approach to health.”