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Life Expectancy, Other Health Indicators Improve In Asia-Pacific, OECD Report Says

A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released on Tuesday, found that “Asia-Pacific countries have seen steady gains in key health indicators since 1970, but developing nations there are still far behind standards in the industrialised world,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. OECD looked at “[h]ealth systems for 27 Asia-Pacific economies,” according to the news service (12/21).

The report found that life expectancy in 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region rose more than 14 years since 1970 to 71.6 years in 2008, Xinhua reports. “The increase of life expectancy in Asia-Pacific area is much higher than the average gain in OECD countries of 9 years over the same period,” the news service writes, adding that significant improvements in nutritional intake, water and sanitation, and health care systems are helping people live longer (12/21).

“Calorie intake has risen from around 2,300 kcal/person/day in 1990 to 2,500 in 2007,” according to the report, an OECD press release states. “But more than half a billion people (16% of the total population in the region) remain undernourished,” it adds. About 86 percent of people in the region use “improved drinking-water sources … but nearly two billion people (35%) do not use improved sanitation,” the release notes. “The growth rate in per capita health spending in real terms was 4.9% per year in Asia, on average between 1998-2008, higher than the 4.1% observed across OECD countries,” according to the release, which notes that growth rates for “Cambodia, China, the Republic of Korea, and Vietnam was even more rapid – almost twice the average rate for the region.”

The report also found a drop in the infant mortality rate, which “has more than halved across the region since 1980, but at an average of 30 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, it is still six times the OECD rate,” the press release states. Reproductive health services varies across countries in the region. “[E]stimates of maternal mortality ranged from 5 per 100,000 births in Australia to 376 in Pakistan in 2008. Around three quarters of all births are attended by skilled health personnel, although in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Lao PDR it is 1-in-5 or less.”

Other notable findings include: low supplies of doctors and nurses of about 1.1 per 1,000 population, significantly below the OECD average of 2.4 per 1,000 population; 40 percent of adult males in the region smoke daily, while 6 percent of females smoke daily; and about half the world’s tuberculosis cases (about 6 million prevalent cases) occur in the Asia-Pacific region (12/21).

The report also found that “Asia-Pacific countries spend on average just over 500 US dollars per person per year on health, against a 3,000 dollar average in the rich nations. The spending lags behind even when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP),” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (12/21).