Unsafe Sex Ranks Second in WHO List of World’s Top Health Risks
Unsafe sex is the second-largest health risk worldwide, according to a World Health Organization report released yesterday and summarized in the Lancet, AFP/New York Times reports. The report, titled "Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life," lists the top 10 major health risks worldwide that together account for approximately 40% of all deaths (AFP/New York Times, 10/31). The number one international health risk is being underweight, which results from a lack of food and can contribute to low birthweight infants and other health problems. According to the report, both underweight and unsafe sex are "far more prevalent" in developing nations than in developed nations (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 10/31). HIV/AIDS is currently the world's fourth leading cause of death, the report said, adding that 2.9 million deaths per year can be attributed to unsafe sex, with the majority of deaths occurring in Africa (Lovell, Reuters, 10/30). Death from AIDS-related causes has reduced the average life expectancy in some areas of sub-Saharan Africa to 47 years, compared to 62 years in areas without the disease (Capella, Agence France-Presse, 10/30). The report advocates "cost-effective" measures to curb the top 10 health problems, including improved HIV/AIDS prevention education (AFP/New York Times, 10/31). The authors also encourage counseling to promote breastfeeding to increase child weight (Wall Street Journal, 10/31). According to the report, reducing the world's top health risks could add at least 10 years of "good health" to average lifespans worldwide, with an even greater improvement in developing nations (AFP/New York Times, 10/31).
NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday reported on the analysis. The segment includes comments from WHO Analysis Director Christopher Murray and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Professor Ronald Waldman (Silberner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/30). The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online.