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So, on Halloween 2011, the seven billionth person in the world was born–China or India the most likely birthplace. In a New York Times column this summer, Thomas Friedman laid out his thoughts on the cost us all of living with so many billions of other people: “The Earth is Full”. It makes sobering reading.

A recent news story on the environmental impacts takes on a theme that many US organizations have shied away from in the decades since the 1970s focus on Limits to Growth: that population growth and environmental problems are linked (see my posts on Limits to Growth and my reflections on the topic).

Others discuss the implications for food production, migration, and conflict, with some experts arguing that excess growth is not the problem.

The United Nations Population Fund just released its report, State of World Population 2011. Take a look at the overview for some of the key points, some to celebrate and others as spurs to action. And the site includes data, the full report, photos and videos like this one.

If the world is too crowded, shouldn’t we be working to limit population growth instead of striving for global health in general?

The choice is, I think, a false one. Population growth rates are shaped by many things–of course, we see links to income levels, but beliefs, education, and norms, access to healthcare, and many social and economic factors all play roles. Reproductive health and access to family planning are key aspects of healthcare for everyone. Better health improves the prospects for limiting population growth.

Age distribution of burdent of disease (2004 data) for Low and Middle Income Countries (WHO 08)

In class yesterday we talked about the burden borne by the world’s children. According to The global burden of disease: 2004 update (WHO, 2008), over a third of the world’s burden of disease falls on children. Over 10 million children die every year of preventable causes, but the picture is worse than that horrible statistic conveys: many diseases suffered by children impose penalties throughout their lives by affecting cognitive capacities, physical development, and psychological health.

Philosopher Peter Singer asks us to think about saving a drowning child in a shallow pond you happen to walk by–you’d do it automatically. Why don’t we save a child dying of malaria in Ghana? What are our duties in world where children suffer? I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers, but as we hand out candy to our neighborhood children, it might be worth thinking about! Take a look at Singer’s provocative argument, “The Life You Can Save”.

And since we’re here at MIT and love data, it makes sense to round out this set of resources with Hans Rosling’s 15-minute video: Reducing child mortality – a moral and environmental imperative. In it, he argues that many countries are making good progress towards the goal of reducing child mortality.He also reminds us that it’s time to stop talking about Sub-Saharan Africa as one place. There are some amazing gains to celebrate and important goals to work on as we greet our seven billionth neighbor!

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country briefing: Uganda – health

September 1, 2010

Kyetume Team- Yuko Amizaki, Terry Hu, Shirley Li, Jeongyeon Shim for Global Health Delivery Lab, February 2011 Health Indicators, prevalence of diseases, other measures Major Infectious Diseases: Degree of risk: very high Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea hepatitis A typhoid fever Vectorborne diseases: malaria plague African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) Water contact disease: schistosomiasis (bilharzia) more »

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country briefing: Uganda – culture

September 1, 2010

Uganda History and Recent Events Pre-colonial Uganda The oldest inhabitants of Uganda were indigenous hunter gatherers, but between approximately 500 BC and 1000 AD multiple populations migrated to the region and created a diverse ethnic make-up.  These populations introduced agriculture and cattle-herding, contributing to the early economic development of the region.  By the 16th century, more »

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country briefing: South Africa – health

September 1, 2010

Team: Eric Berger, Tara Thomas, Heather Vital, and Anne Wang for GHD Lab, February 22, 2011 Instructor: Professor Anjali Sastry; TA: Lilian Tse Health Indicators, Prevalence of Diseases, Other Measures South Africa’s health landscape is extraordinarily dynamic especially due to the ravaging effects of HIV.  In 2007, the WHO estimated that 17.64% of the population more »

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country briefing: South Africa – culture

September 1, 2010

Section 3: History, culture, society, politics, education Overview of the nation’s history and recent events History of South Africa Before AD 100: Most of today’s black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. 1500: The Nguni, ancestors of the more »

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country briefing: Uganda – economy

September 1, 2010

Country Briefing – Uganda Section 1: Economy and Business Climate Macroeconomic and human development indicators: INDICATOR YEAR Population (millions) 32.71 2009 Population growth (annual %) 3.3 2009 GNI, Atlas method (current US$) (billions) 15.20 2009 GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$) 460 2009 Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000) 128 2009 Maternal mortality ratio (per more »

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country briefing: South Africa – economy

September 1, 2010

GHD Lab Spring 2011 Section 1: Economy and Business Climate of South Africa Macroeconomic, human development, and other broad indicators South Africa is the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of approximately $530 billion (2010 $, PPP) and the 26th largest economy in the world.[1] However, South Africa’s GDP per capita (PPP) of $10,700 more »

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