Global Health Facts : More than 70% of all cancer deaths in 2005 occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Q & A on Global Health

What are the new threats from infectious diseases?

20 known strains of diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria have developed resistance to antibiotics, while old diseases have reappeared, such as cholera (in Angola, with 1,298 deaths), yellow fever (new cases recently reported in Guinea, Sudan, Mali, and Senegal), plague, dengue fever, meningitis, hemorrhagic fever, and diphtheria.

Avian flu has spread among birds in more than 50 countries. If genetic variations occur in the H5N1 avian flu virus that allows human-to-human transmission, then 25 million may die, with untold effects on airlines, tourism, and other economic sectors.

  • About 30% of all deaths are caused by infectious diseases.
  • More than 30 new and highly infectious diseases have been identified in the last 20 years.
  • As of July 2006, WHO had confirmed 228 human cases of avian flu in nine countries, with 130 deaths.

How can a disease be controlled?

The responses to avian flu and SARS have shown that even without a vaccine it is possible to control a disease by early detection and accurate reporting, prompt isolation, and quarantine as needed, plus ongoing global awareness and use of WHO international health regulations. WHO averages 200 outbreak investigations every year, and around 50 will require an international response. More than 94% of deaths from diarrheal diseases and 40% of malaria deaths can be prevented through better environmental management.

What factors are involved in the increase of disease?

Diseases increase with poverty, migrations, trade, human encroachment in natural habits, environmental damage, deforestation, international air travel, armed conflicts, and urban concentrations of increasingly large numbers of people in unsanitary environments. In addition, bioterrorism is emerging as a threat on a par with nuclear war, triggering bio-sensor R&D for global deployment, general vaccines, and quarantine systems.

What about the lack of clean water?

According to Loïc Fauchon, president of the World Water Council, in 2005 “lack of water or its poor quality…caused 10 times more deaths than all the wars waged on the planet together.” Water tables are falling on every continent and groundwater aquifers are being polluted. Water supply has to be increased, not simply redistributed. This issue will be addressed seriously when the number of people without clean water and those suffering from water-borne diseases diminishes by half and when the percentage of water used in agriculture drops for five years in a row.

  • About 80% of all diseases in the developing world are water-related.
  • Despite some recent improvements, 1.1 billion people still do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation, resulting in 1.7 million deaths per year from diarrhea and related diseases.

What kind of study is necessary to combat disease?

Better understanding of the relationship among disease, ecology, behavior, and genetics is needed, as are increased applications of tele-medicine and tele-health, women's rights programs related to HIV/AIDS, safe water supply, advanced generations of antibiotics, and innovative health measures such as the "Miracle Tree" (Moringa) in Senegal.

In the future, genetic engineering, stem cell research, and nanotechnology may be used to improve our immune systems to prevent infection by known and unknown viruses and disease; one vaccination could become permanent and heritable to future generations.

How can the threat of new and reemerging diseases be reduced?

This problem will be addressed when life expectancy grows to 75 years with little disparity among and within nations, when there is effective global disease detection, when surveillance and therapy systems are in place, and when vaccines and medicines for new diseases are usually developed within one month. Widespread use of insecticide-treated bednets is a cost-effective way of reducing malaria. Scientists are working to develop a genetically modified mosquito that would not carry the malaria parasite.

What is the Millennium Project?

The Millennium Project, directed by Notre Dame Forum Panelist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, is an independent advisory body commissioned by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to recommend a global plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The Project is based at the headquarters of the United Nations Development Program in New York.

What are the Millennium Development Goals?

In September 2000, the largest gathering of world leaders in history met at what is called “the Millennium Summit.” They committed to a partnership to reduce extreme poverty and set out targets with a 2015 deadline; these are known as the Millennium Development Goals.

What progress has been made toward the Goals so far?

Many countries are on track for achieving at least some of the Goals by 2015. But progress has been far from uniform. There are huge disparities among and within countries.

  • Between 1981 and 2001, according to World Bank estimates, the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 1.5 billion to 1.1 billion.
  • Between 1990 and 2001, under-five mortality rates fell from 103 deaths per 1,000 live births a year to 88. Life expectancy rose from 63 years to nearly 65 years.
  • An additional 8% of the developing world’s people received access to water.
  • An additional 15% acquired access to improved sanitation services.

The Role of the Jordan Hall of Science

Jordan Hall of Science

A cutting-edge facility to forge 21st century solutions to the global health crisis. This year’s Forum coincides with the opening of our new Jordan Hall of Science... > Read More

News & Events


World AIDS Week

In commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1st, the World AIDS Day task force sponosred by the CSC will be hosting a week of events that focus on increasing awareness for HIV/AIDS among Notre Dame students and faculty.