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The real top killers

13 July 2011

Two days ago I mentioned Hans Rosling, Professor at the Karolinska Insitute in Stockholm and the man behind Gapminder. If you are interested in any sense in global public health has developed and which factor are behind, I suggest that you check out Hans Rosling’s presentations at TED.talk. This one is a good one to start with.

What I’ll write about today is the first time I heard about Rosling and his work. It was through Marian, my upper secondary school teacher in Social sciences. Marian was a great teacher, she’s now retired, and she’s one of the persons that has influenced my career path the most. Anyhow, one day in 2002 Marian was really excited about an article she had read in the paper about Rosling and his work. A couple of weeks later I and my friend Lena were deciding on a theme for a major project. We chose International Public Health.

I learned a lot from that project. Firstly; about good team work, it was great to do that project with Lena. Secondly, I learned about the topic and it’s one of the school projects that I have the most advantage of later. How diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB are spread, where they are common and have the worst impact, that obesity globally is in numbers of people almost a big problem as under-nutrition and that in average each cigarette that you smoke shortens your life span with that same amount out time it takes to smokes it. We also included how lack of water affects people health and cause scary diseases such as bilharzias.  That project has been the basis for my understanding of international public health ever since, of course I gained knowledge along the years, but it has always been the basis. It was not until I started to read about children health in UNICEF reports that I realized what we had missed. We missed out on two of the top-killer diseases of the developing world, which are also the top two ones for child mortality. Pneumonia and diarrhea. Together they cause the death of around 6.2 million people, which of the almost 90% are children below five years. I honestly don’t believe that the 18-year-olds we were missed out on them because we didn’t do background research. I think the main reason was that the focus within the International Public Sector or the aid community or the media, was not on these rather cheaply preventable diseases, but rather on HIV/AIDS and starvation (and starvation as in shortage of food, not malnutrition which is partly another thing). I’m proud that we found TB on our own.

Somewhere in the AIDS-epidemic and the African famines of the 80’s the basics were forgotten. Prevent children from getting diarrhea, supply rehydration for when they do, vaccinate against measles (6th on the top killer list), polio and tetanus. And WASH-programs.

The list is top killers is:

1)      Respiratory infections (mostly pneumonia)

2)      HIV/AIDS

3)      Malaria

4)      Diarrhea

5)      TB

6)      Measles

7)      Whopping chough

8)      Tetanus

9)      Meningitis

10)   Syphilis

  And the top killers for children:

1)      Pneumonia

 2)      Diarrhea

 3)      Malaria

4)      Measles

5)      HIV/AIDS

 

 

 

And yes, of course HIV/AIDS is a horrible disease, it needs to be both prevented, treated and researched for a vaccine. But there are other diseases that receive much less attention,  funds and action that there are already methods here to prevent, vaccinate and sometimes cure.

As a final not I will mention that me and Lena choose rather different paths in life, she became a fashion designer and her garments and collections can be checked out at her own brand Lena Quist.

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