‘World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring Health for the SDGs’ Released! (19 May 2016)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released World Health Statistics 2016. This year’s report focuses on the proposed health and health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated targets. It represents an initial effort to bring together available data on SDG health (Goal 3) and health-related indicators.

Key Messages:

The report compiles the most recent data on the proposed health and selected health-related SDG indicators – to assess the current situation and describe crucial data gaps.

In the current absence of official goal-level indicators, summary measures of health such as (healthy) life expectancy are used to provide a general assessment of the situation.

Available data show that in spite of the major progress during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era, major challenges remain in terms of

  • reducing maternal and child mortality,
  • improving nutrition, and
  • achieving further progress in the battle against infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and hepatitis.

The situation analysis also provides evidence of the importance of addressing noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors such as

  • tobacco use,
  • mental health problems,
  • road traffic injuries, and
  • environmental health issues.

Data on water and sanitation and air quality show that much more needs to be done to reduce risks to health.

Weak health systems are a major obstacle in many countries, resulting in major deficiencies in UHC for even the most basic health services and inadequate preparedness for health emergencies.

SDG Health (Goal 3)- Situation in 2016:

1. Life Expectancy (At birth)

Definition: The average number of years a newborn child can expect to live based on current mortality rates and patterns (assuming the current rates remain unchanged).

Global (2015): 

  • Both sexes: 71.4 years
  • Female life expectancy: 73.8 years
  • Male life expectancy: 69.1 years

There are still 22 countries with life expectancies below 60 years – all of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone has the lowest life expectancy for both men (49.3 years) and women (50.8 years).

On average, women live longer than men in every country of the world and in every WHO region.


2. Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health


A. Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)

Definition: Number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births

Global (2015): 216/ 100,000 live births

Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings and could have been prevented.

Achievement during MDG era:  Average annual reduction of 2.3% between 1990 and 2015.

Required rate of reduction to achieve SDG by 2030: At least 7.3%

Depends upon presence of skilled birth attendant at birth, but more than 40% of births in the WHO African Region and WHO South-East Asia Region were not attended by skilled health personnel, and within countries large access disparities associated with differences in socioeconomic status persist.


B. Under-5 Mortality Rate

Definition: The under-5 mortality rate is the number of children who die by the age of five, per 1000 live births per year.

Global (2015): 42.5/1000 live births

Child mortality is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 child in 12 dies before their fifth birthday, followed by South-East Asia where 1 in 19 dies before reaching 5 years.

Achievement during MDG era: Annual rate of reduction between 2000 and 2015 was 3.9%

Required rate of reduction to achieve SDG by 2030: At least 3.9% (current rate needs to be maintained)

The specific target of 12 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births will have to be achieved by 2030 in order to achieve the child mortality target.


C. All forms of malnutrition

i. Stunting

Definition: Short for age

Global (2015): Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of all children under 5 years’ age were stunted

The highest prevalence was observed in the WHO African Region (38%), followed by the WHO South-East Asia Region (33%). Children are at greater risk of stunting if they are born in rural areas, poor households or to mothers denied basic education. 

ii. Wasting

Definition: Low weight for age

Global (2015): Around 7% (50 million under-5 children)

The highest prevalence of wasting was observed in the WHO South-East Asia Region (13.5%, or 24 million children).

iii. Overweight

Definition: Excess weight for height

Global (2015): 6% (42 million children under 5 years of age)

Prevalence increased in all WHO regions between 2000 and 2015. The highest prevalence was observed in the WHO European Region.


3. Infectious Diseases



Global (2014): HIV incidence rate among adults aged 15–49 years was 0.5 per 1000 uninfected population, with 2 million people becoming infected.

HIV incidence was highest in the WHO African Region at 2.6 per 1000 uninfected population in 2014, as compared with other WHO regions where incidence among adults aged 15–49 years ranged from 0.1 to 0.4 per 1000 uninfected.



Global (2014): Incidence 9.6 million new TB cases (133 per 100 000 population) and 1.5 million TB deaths, including 0.4 million deaths among HIV-positive people.

In 2014, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in the WHO South-East Asia Region and WHO Western Pacific Region, accounting for 58% of new cases globally. However, Africa carried the most severe burden, with 281 cases per 100 000 population.


C. Malaria

Global (2015): Incidence rate was 91 per 1000 persons at risk, with an estimated 214 million cases and 438 000 deaths (more than two thirds of which occurred in children under 5 years of age).

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden, with an incidence rate of 246 per 1000 persons at risk, accounting for roughly 90% of all cases and deaths globally.


D. Water and Sanitation

Global (2015): 91% of the world’s population used an improved drinking water source and 68% used an improved sanitation facility.


4. Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and Mental Health



Global (2012): NCDs were responsible for around 38 million deaths per year, accounting for 68% of all deaths worldwide. Of deaths under the age of 70 years, commonly referred to as premature deaths, an estimated 52% were due to NCDs.

Over 75% of those premature deaths were caused by cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

Achievement during MDG era:  Globally, premature mortality from these four main NCDs declined by 15% between 2000 and 2012.

SDG Target to be achieved by 2030: To achieve a 1/3rd reduction in premature mortality from NCDs.

The current rate of decline is insufficient to meet the 2030 target.


B. Mental Health

Global (2012):  There were over 800 000 estimated suicide deaths, with 86% of these occurring in people under the age of 70.

Globally, among young adults aged 15–29 years suicide accounts for 8.5% of all deaths and is the second leading cause of death in this group after road traffic injuries.


C. Tobacco use

Global (2015): Over 1.1 billion people used tobacco, with far more males (945 million) than females (180 million) smoking.

Even though the prevalence of smoking is declining worldwide and in many countries, it appears to be increasing in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and the WHO African Region.


Useful Links:

Link to the Press release:


Link to the Full Report (English) [PDF]:


Link to Table of Contents and Executive Summary (English) [PDF]:


Link to Annex A (28 Interactive PDFs providing summaries of the SDG health and health- related targets) (English) [PDF]:


Link to Annex B (Tables of health statistics by country, WHO Region and Globally) (English) [PDF]:


Link to the WHO Global Health Observatory page hosting the Report:


One thought on “‘World Health Statistics 2016: Monitoring Health for the SDGs’ Released! (19 May 2016)

  1. Pingback: Is Going Green the Same as Eco Sustainability? – Sandra M. Urquhart

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