Reduction in premature deaths should be an SDG goal, says study

Impressive reduction in deaths among children in the past decade, but gains are low in countries engaged in war or suffering from HIV epidemic

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Thursday 25 September 2014


A paper published in journal, The Lancet, has called for a 40 per cent reduction in premature deaths by 2030. The target has been proposed for incorporation in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals 2016-30, to be formulated in 2015. The current draft of SDGs includes 17 overarching goals. One of them is on health to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. The heath goal has 13 sub-targets.

The paper, authored by 16 experts, notes that "feasible goals with some quantifiable, measurable targets can influence governments". Reduction in premature deaths for people under-70 years of age is seen as an important quantifiable goal by the authors. They argue that even though this is a general goal, priorities of each country will be different depending on the health needs. 

Explaining the reason for keeping under-70 as premature deaths, the paper noted, "Global life expectancy is now (2010) about 70 years. We have defined premature death somewhat arbitrarily as death before age 70 years." 

The authors further expand this target. They say that to achieve the 40 per cent target, certain other global targets will also have to be fixed. These are:  avoid two-thirds of child and maternal deaths; two-thirds of tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria deaths; a third of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs); and a third of those from other causes (other communicable diseases, undernutrition, and injuries). 

Good progress 
The authors analysed country-wise health-related data from 1970-2010. They found that globally, mortality decreased substantially from 1970—2010, particularly in childhood. However, the gains were low in countries where the effects of HIV or political disturbances were predominant. From 2000-2010, under-70 mortality rates decreased 19 per cent with poorer countries gaining more in absolute numbers. In the decade 2000-2010, deaths decreased by 34 per cent at ages 0-4 years; 17 per cent at ages 5-49 years; and 15 per cent at ages 50-69 years. In the same years, deaths due to communicable, perinatal, maternal, or nutritional causes decreased by 30 per cent; 14 per cent for NCDs; and 13 per cent for injuries (accident, suicide, or homicide).


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