'A footprint means pressing down and global means world, so 'global footprint' means pressing down on the world and we don't want to press too hard' (child's definition of a Global Footprint)
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Health footprint

"We shall not finally defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or any of the other infectious diseases that plague the developing world until we have also won the battle for safe drinking-water, sanitation and basic health care." Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General So what is a health footprint?

x-raysThis can be seen as the impact that actions and decisions made by individuals, groups and governments have on the health of individuals and communities around the world. The actions and decisions may be environmental, e.g. how and where clean water is supplied; economic, e.g. whether to fund a local health clinic; or political, e.g. whether those most in need are given priority. In turn, the health or unhealthiness of people and communities has huge social and economic impacts on the whole of society. 

Health: not just the absence of disease  

pillsThe World Health Organisation has described health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease.  

The health of individuals, groups and communities has links to many related issues such as food and agriculture, education, water and sanitation, gender and climate change.  

Poverty is one of the key issues affecting the health of communities. The world’s poorest people suffer the most from ill health: they face more serious illnesses, more often and their country’s are the least able to provide basic healthcare services to promote good health and prevent illness.  

There have been great gains in health over the last 50 years as the result of improvements in income and education, with accompanying improvements in nutrition, hygiene, housing, water supplies, and sanitation. 

However these gains have been unequally distributed with the most notable health improvements occurring in the richer countries of the world. The poorest, and particularly people living in sub-Saharan Africa, have not only been left behind, but have had to face new challenges such as HIV/AIDS too.  

The underlying threats to good health are well known and affordable solutions are available. What’s lacking is the political will to make it happen and effective policies and programmes to deliver good health to all.  

Health footprint: how it measures up

  • Almost 20 million children worldwide are severely malnourished.

  • Globally, pneumonia is the largest single cause of death in children under five years of age; out of 154 million cases each year, three-quarters occur in just 15 countries.

  • A child dies from malaria in Africa every 30 seconds; it is the leading cause of death in Africa among under-fives.

  • An estimated 2.3 million children are living with HIV; more than half of all HIV-infected children die before their second birthday.

  • Two-thirds of all child deaths are preventable through low-cost actions

  • 600 000 deaths occurred worldwide as a result of weather-related natural disasters in the 1990s; 95% of them in developing countries.

  • Worldwide, 13 million deaths could be prevented every year by making our environments healthier.

  • 2.5 million children under the age of five die every year worldwide due to diseases that can be prevented with vaccines; immunization (vaccination) currently saves between 2 and 3 million lives per year.

  • Deaths from measles has decreased from 757 000 deaths in 2000 to 242 000 deaths in 2006; the biggest improvement occurred in Africa, where number of deaths fell by almost 100%

  • Worldwide, a woman dies every minute due to difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth; most of these deaths are avoidable with the correct interventions.

Human rights

Health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, and every country in the world is now signed up to at least one human rights treaty that addresses health-related rights.

There is a clear link between health and human rights. For example, when basic human rights are ignored through practices such as slavery, torture or violence against women and children, there can be serious health consequences for the individuals affected. Equally, the chances of ill-health can be reduced by taking steps to respect, protect and fulfill human rights by for example enabling equal rights to health, food and nutrition irrespective of race, sex and gender etc.

Many of the rights enshrined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child relate either directly or indirectly to health. Article 6 for example, states that all children have the right to life and to survive and develop healthily. Article 24 specifically relates to health and states that all children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment. This article also outlines the responsibility that richer countries have towards poorer countries in helping to achieve good health. Article 27 refers to the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet physical and mental needs, including physical and mental health. Article 32 makes governments responsible for protecting children from any work that might harm health and Article 33 relates to protecting children from dangerous drugs.

For further information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child click here