Beijing: Urbanization, pollution and lifestyle changes in poor and developing countries mean governments must redirect some of their health care resources, the head of a global health foundation said on 29 October.
Poor countries are seeing strong growth in noncommunicable diseases caused by stress or new urban lifestyles, said Stephen Matlin, executive director of the Geneva-based Global Forum for Health Research.
“The inescapable conclusion ... is that countries need to develop much more strong and robust health systems to be able to deal with the health problems of populations that are rising,” Matlin said in Beijing where the forum is holding its 11th annual meeting.
“In particular, whereas the traditional situation was that major health problems in many developing countries were caused by infectious diseases, including things like malaria and TB, the picture has now widened considerably,” Matlin said.
The Global Forum is a global nonprofit body committed to drawing attention to inequality in the amount of money devoted to researching health problems of the developing world.
“The nature of health problems experienced by the poor and by developing countries has changed enormously in the last decade or so,” Matlin said ahead of the opening of the conference in Beijing.
“We have seen the appearance of new infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and also the reemergence of old diseases which are becoming more resistant to available treatment,” he said.
Matlin also said there has been a massive growth in non-communicable diseases like heart diseases, strokes, cancer, and mental and neurological diseases. “In many developing countries like China and India ... these are now the main source of illness and death in the population,” he said.
Matlin said experts were also seeing an increase in health problems caused by massive growth in the size of urban populations, and changes in lifestyles and living conditions caused by the movement from rural to urban.
Additionally, environmental factors such as pollution and climate change around the world have also affected health conditions. Matlin said more research was needed and more equitable health systems had to be put in place.
He said that only a small fraction of the $125 billion (euro86.9 billion) the U.S. spends annually on medical research and development related to health is devoted to problems faced by poor countries.