Lifespan in Poor Countries: Steps Forward and Back
life expectancy in developing nations has increased by over 60%, due in part to decreases in mortality from communicable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, particularly among children. Unfortunately, increasing death rates from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like heart disease and diabetes, have been outpacing decreases from communicable diseases. In developing countries, NCDs often strike working-age adults, leading to significant losses of income and spiraling health care costs that together are expected to reach $21 trillion over the next twenty years. Relative to developing countries, NCDs strike earlier, last longer, cost more, and lead to death more often. Inadequately funded public health systems that are geared primarily to communicable diseases are part of the problem. In addition, though, the development process itself, which has led to the rise of urban slums and higher smoking rates, is also to blame. Developed nations can provide a model for improving public health services, but not for an alternative development paradigm that promotes sustainable well-being.