Asia-Pacific sees longer life on better nutrition, sanitation: OECD

20:10, December 22, 2010      

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Life expectancy across 22 Asian countries reached 71.6 years in 2008, more than 14 years older than the level in 1970, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Tuesday.

The increase of life expectancy in Asia-Pacific area is much higher than the average gain in OECD countries of 9 years over the same period, due to significant improvement in nutrition intake, water and sanitation, health care system, the Paris-based organization said in its new health report on Asia-Pacific.

The amelioration was remarkable in the area in past decades, as the infant mortality rate has more than halved across the region since 1980, calorie intake has risen from around 2,300 kcal per person per day in 1990 to 2,500 in 2007, and 86 percent of Asia-Pacific population can use improved drinking-water sources.

The per capita health spending grew at a pace of 4.9 percent per year in Asia on average between 1998-2008, higher than the 4.1-percent observed across OECD countries. In addition, Cambodia, China, South Korea and Vietnam saw even more rapid growth-almost twice the average rate for Asia.

However, compared with advanced countries, the lag is still big. According to the report, communicable diseases remain a significant cause of death in the region, where over half of tuberculosis patients, or 6 million cases, were recorded.

Furthermore, nearly 2 billion people do not use improved sanitation, while the number of doctors and nurses in the region remains short to march population scale, well below the OECD average at around 1.1 and 2.4 per 1,000 population.

As for detailed indicators like the number of hospital beds and the quality of reproductive health, four OECD countries - Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand - are well above the Asia-Pacific average level, according to the report covering 27 countries and economies.

Asian economies spend just over 500 U.S. dollars per person a year on health, against over 3,000 dollars in OECD countries. This amounts to more than 4 percent of GDP on average, compared to over 9 percent in OECD countries, the report said.

Source: Xinhua
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