NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WHO Says 40 Percent of Deaths are Avoidable

November 6, 2002

Just 10 avoidable risk factors account for a massive 40 percent of global deaths each year, claims the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, cheap remedies exist and governments of all countries can do more to prevent unnecessary and premature death.

The risks are starkly different between "haves" and "have-nots":

  • Of the 10 risk factors, the five that dominate in poor countries are abnormally low body weight, unsafe sex, iron deficiency, unsafe water and exposure to indoor smoke from solid fuels (not to be confused with second-hand tobacco smoke).
  • In richer countries, the five key killers are tobacco, alcohol, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity.

WHO estimates that 16 healthy years could be added to lifespans in parts of Africa where expectancy has fallen as low as 37 years. And in rich countries, healthy lifespans could be raised by five years.

Source: Andy Coghlan, "WHO sets out world's deadly top 10," New Scientist News Service, October 30, 2002; World Health Organization The World Health Report 2002 (World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, October 30, 2002).

For WHO text


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