News / Health

Life Expectancy Gap Widens Between Women in Rich and Poor Countries

Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization reports women aged 50 and older globally are healthier now than they were 20 and 30 years ago.   But while women’s health has improved, a new WHO study finds the gap in life expectancy is widening between older women in rich and poor countries.

The World Health Organization reports heart disease and stroke and cancers are the leading causes of death of women aged 50 years and older worldwide.  But, it notes these deaths occur at earlier ages in the developing countries.

The study is one of the first to analyze the causes of death of women aged 50 and more from a range of rich and poor countries.  It finds many of these women are meeting an early death because they live in countries that lack the money and resources to prevent, detect and treat non-communicable diseases.

The head of the WHO Mortality and Burden of Disease Unit, Colin Mathers, says developed countries have the health systems and means to reduce and control cardiovascular problems.  He tells VOA screening and treatment programs also are successfully reducing the incidence of breast and cervix cancers.

He notes cervical cancer is one of the leading cancers in African women.  He says the illness is largely preventable, but African countries have fewer resources to treat it.

“There is simply not enough money to provide high quality health care to everyone that is accessible.  And, also a matter of human resources, that there often are not enough trained doctors and nurses and other health professionals in the country.  And, that is made worse by the brain drain where African nurses can migrate to high-income countries to get jobs in their health systems and so some of the training that is done in developing countries ends up not benefiting them," he said.

Dr. Mathers says donors give relatively little money toward the problem of non-communicable diseases in African countries because they tend to focus on reducing maternal mortality.  While this is understandable, he notes maternal mortality rates are going down substantially.  At the same time, he says death rates among older women are going up, so it is time for donors to rethink their priorities.

Thanks to improvements in health, the Study finds women over 50, on average, have gained 3.5 years in life expectancy over the past 20 years.  It notes older women in Germany and Japan now can expect to live to 84 and 88 years respectively and women in many other developed countries can expect to live to age 83 or 84.

The report says life expectancy for women in the poorer countries is about 10 years less.  It notes women in Eastern Europe also die at an earlier age because of high rates of cardiovascular disease, accidents, and high alcohol consumption.

Dr. Mathers says major risk factors for older women include smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, overweight and obesity.

“Many of the problems faced by older women start earlier in life.  So, smoking for example-people typically develop the habit at earlier ages.  So, it is not only about intervening in older years-improving conditions and education and providing information to younger people can ultimately assist in improving health at older ages as well," he said.

The World Health Organization says the epidemic of chronic diseases can be reversed with available cost-effective ways to address common non-communicable diseases.  These include prevention, early diagnosis and management of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol.

The study says inexpensive and simple tests for the screening and early detection of cervical cancer can save many lives.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid