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Regional health: the latest major health conditions affecting our world

The world’s major regions face different health challenges brought on by economics, climate, history, habits, traditions, culture, ethnicity and many other factors. We examined some of the key health trends across Europe, the Middle East & Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Regional health: the latest major health conditions affecting our world

According to World Atlas, the top ten list of leading causes of death worldwide is topped by coronary heart disease, with strokes coming in a close second and showing lower respiratory infections in third place. The table below illustrates the full list of causes across the globe, with related number and percentage of deaths.

Rank Cause Number of Deaths % of Total Deaths
1 Ischemic heart disease (coronary heart disease) 8,756,006 15.5%
2 Stroke 6,240,611 11.1%
3 Lower respiratory infections 3,190,350 5.6%
4 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 3,170,429 5.6%
5 Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers 1,694,623 3.0%
6 Diabetes mellitus 1,585,530 2.8%
7 Alzheimer disease and other dementias 1,541,880 2.7%
8 Diarrheal diseases 1,388,629 2.7%
9 Tuberculosis 1,373,159 2.4%
10 Road injury 1,342,265 2.4%

It will probably come as no surprise that most causes of death are related to non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer that now kill over 40 million people worldwide every year. More than 80% of these deaths occur in low - or middle - income countries where access to health care is less reliable.

From new strains of influenza to age-old bubonic plague, emerging and re-emerging contagious diseases are global health issues frontline health workers deal with on a day-to-day basis. We count on them to sound the alarm and cut off outbreaks before they become pandemics.

So how do the world’s major regions compare, and what are some of the key challenges they are facing today?


UK & Europe

Health challenges in European countries mainly come about through lifestyle choices. Nearly 50% of premature deaths are related to diseases of the circulatory system, many of which are preventable. A further 20%, are related to cancer and its complications.

Communicable diseases are not as frequent in Europe. However, due to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, steps are being taken to create a bloc-wide immunisation schedule.

The EU is also working on a set of criteria to identify and control the use of chemical substances in pesticides that could have a negative effect on public heath due to their interactions with the hormonal system.

Middle East and Africa

Even though infectious diseases continue to be the main cause of concern in the Africa and Middle Eastern region, the number of deaths and patients has decreased thanks to an improved standard of living.

As the population shifts from traditional lifestyles to a more Western style of life, the health challenges become similar to those of Europe and America. The rise of visual impairment and blindness rates is a major example of this change.

Visual health has grown from a marginal problem to one of the most challenging issues facing Africa today. The longer lifespan and the higher rate of recovery from once deadly diseases means that more people are dealing with visual impairment as a consequence. Approximately 80% of the cases are preventable or treatable, but the area lacks the required infrastructures.

Asia Pacific

The two main health concerns facing the Asia and Pacific area are the possibility of an influenza pandemic, and mother and child health.

Over 41% of under-five deaths and 44% of peri-delivery maternal deaths happen in Asia and the Pacific. Moreover, 60% of children who suffer from stunted growth live in the area.

When it comes to influenza, Dr Wenging Zhang from the WHO’s Global Influenza Programme has stated "Another pandemic caused by a new influenza virus is a certainty. But we do not know when it will happen, what virus strain it will be and how severe the disease will be”.

The 2003 and 2005 SARS outbreaks showcased the severity of the repercussions a pandemic could have. A study by the ADB has estimated that the local growth rate could be as low as zero and global trade could be reduced by up 14%.


The issues facing the Americas are similar to those of the European continent: lifestyle choices are the main causes of premature deaths.

The USA is known for its high obesity rates, but one health challenge that particularly stands out is tobacco dependence. Tobacco-related illnesses are currently the main cause of preventable deaths in America. According to the CDC this is a continued focus which needs high levels of medical provider support and engagement to be successful in supporting users to permanently kick the habit.

Future challenges

Modern lifestyle puts our bodies under enormous pressure, which has worsened mental health trends in many parts of the world. Many people live in a constant state of stress and currently, suicide is the second highest cause of death among 15 to 19-year olds.

In addition, global warming is causing tropical temperatures to spread to traditionally colder areas, and with them their associated diseases. An example of this is the recent cases of dengue fever in Nepal.

There are, and always will be, global health challenges to face, but we also see almost daily breakthroughs in modern medicine and innovations in both treatment and the delivery of preventative services through education and technology are helping to drive improved health outcomes.

Generali Global Health will continue to contribute to a healthier world by facilitating access to first class healthcare and wellness services for our members and looking for ways to play our part in improving the overall health of the world’s population.