Chapter Three: Major Public Health Issues in Bangladesh
Public health has improved markedly in Bangladesh over the past three decades. Life expectancy at birth is approximately 70 years, just above the World Health Organization’s world average of 69 years. Maternal mortality, infant and child mortality, and malnutrition rates have all declined substantially, and Bangladesh is on track to achieve its Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child health. Nevertheless, Bangladesh faces major health challenges. The national population is projected to grow to between 200 to 225 million over the next four decades. While fertility has declined, women have on average 2.3 children, and only about half use modern and effective contraceptive methods.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh faces major health challenges. The national population is projected to grow to between 200 to 225 million over the next four decades. While fertility has declined, women have on average 2.3 children, and only about half use modern and effective contraceptive methods. Despite improvements in maternal health, Bangladesh still ranks in the bottom fourth of countries worldwide with approximately 240 deaths per 100,000 live births. Only one-in-four births takes place in a health care facility, putting both mothers and babies at risk. Although infant and child mortality is decreasing, poor nutrition is a critical health problem in Bangladesh. About half of children age 6-59 months suffers from anemia; four-in-ten are stunted; and one in three is underweight. Bangladesh has one of the worst burdens of childhood malnutrition in the world.
Communicable diseases are a major cause of death and disability in Bangladesh. While the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) has declined substantially, Bangladesh still ranks among the top ten countries in the world with the highest TB burden. The disease is found primarily among the poor and least educated populations. Pneumonia and water-borne diseases also are widely prevalent. Pneumonia and other infections are major causes of death among young children.
The toll of non-communicable diseases — chronic diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases — is increasing in Bangladesh as the population becomes more urbanized. In the first national survey to measure blood pressure and blood glucose, about one in three women and about one in five men age 35 and older has elevated blood pressure and roughly one in ten has elevated blood glucose, an indication of diabetes. Cancer is the sixth leading cause of death in Bangladesh, accounting for more than 150,000 deaths annually.
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