Question of the Week
January 10, 2005


The numbers have been incomprehensible.

"BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CP) - Two weeks after a tsunami slammed into coastlines around the Indian Ocean, thousands of bodies were still being pulled out of the mud in remote villages, as the official death toll from the catastrophe rose above 150,000. In a rare positive note, the World Health Organization said no major disease outbreaks have been reported in the crowded camps where millions have sought refuge after losing everything. ... The UN agency has warned that disease could put as many as 150,000 survivors 'at extreme risk' - doubling the disaster's toll."

There are additional devastating and incomprehensible numbers that do not make it to the front pages.

"Every year in the developing world 12.2 million children under 5 years die, most of them from causes which could be prevented for just a few US cents per child. They die largely because of world indifference, but most of all they die because they are poor."

Here are some more numbers that are more than just numbers:

"Almost one third of young children in developing countries are malnourished -- 150 million are underweight for their age, while another 175 million are stunted from chronic malnourishment."

The "number of people who go to bed hungry: more than 800 million

"number of people who die every day from hunger and related causes: 24,000."

And malnutrition is only part of the problem....

"Today malaria is found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and at least one million deaths annually."

"Every year in the developing world acute respiratory infections, particularly pneumonia, kill more than 4 million children under 5 years - one death every 8 seconds - and are a leading cause of disability."

And there are the diseases no one wants to talk about...

"Diarrhoeal diseases, resulting from unsafe water and poor sanitation coupled with poor food-handling practices, are responsible for a further 3 million deaths a year among children under age 5 in the developing world - one every 10 seconds... Many of the deaths from diarrhoea could be prevented by using oral rehydration salts, which cost just US $0.07 on average."

And the diseases that periodically make it into the news...

"AIDS deaths in 2004 Total 3.1 million [including 510,000] Children under 15 years."

The world health situation is filled with incomprehensible numbers. The recent Tsunami has helped to add more lives to these numbers while bringing attention to some of the health issues that many around the world face every day. Whether it is 150,000 people or 12 million, it can be difficult to grasp the humanity of the numbers.

Questions of the Week:
What can people do with these numbers in their minds when they hear them? How can they process them and/or put them in perspective? How can people living in areas less affected by such tragedy personally deal with this information mentally, emotionally, and physically? How can these health issues affect you, your peers, and your community? What impact can you have upon these issues? How would your answers to these questions change if you lived in a different part of the world or in a different community?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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