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Life Expectancy

Research and Explore

1. Assume that you and members of your class work on the planning staff of the Ministry of Health in a country where life expectancy at birth is 47 years. Listed below are some activities that could help your country increase life expectancy. Because of budget limitations, the Ministry of Health cannot undertake all the activities at once.

  1. The Minister has asked each of you to choose the activities that you would undertake first, rank them in the order in which you would implement them, and explain why you chose this ranking.
    • Train health workers to immunize children in urban slums against common childhood diseases.
    • Provide classes in nutrition for pregnant and nursing mothers in villages.
    • Start research on the control of the AIDS virus, which is a major threat in your country.
    • Build a new wing on an existing hospital to house modern medical instruments and equipment.
    • Train village women as midwives to assist women with childbirth and to advise them on pre- and post-natal care.
    • Provide free literacy classes for women in rural and urban areas.
    • To combat malaria, provide mosquito netting treated with insecticide for beds for all children
    • Install a sewage system in the largest city of the country
    • Develop a print and radio campaign on the danger of risky sexual behavior and the dangers of smoking.
  2. Are there any listed activities that you would not use?
  3. What are three additional activities that you would add to your list? Describe each one and how it would fit into your ranking.
  4. Now, you should present your report to the rest of the class. After each report, class members should ask critical questions, and you should defend your choices.

2. Immunizations are widely used to prevent infectious diseases, an important way to improve life expectancy at birth. In this activity you will investigate your own immunization and what further actions you may need to take to protect yourself against infectious diseases.

  1. Find out what immunizations you have received. Ask you parents, your local doctor or your local clinic for the names of the diseases for which you are immunized. Ask for the dates of your immunizations too.
  2. Interview the staff of the local clinic to discover if immunizations are required by laws, if they are required for entrance into school, and if immunizations are good for the rest of your life or whether you must have them again. Be sure to ask if immunizations are required for traveling to other countries or to return from other countries.
  3. Interview your parents and community leaders to learn what other actions they have taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of your exposure to infectious diseases. Ask especially about access to safe water, sanitation, and education.
  4. Using your own knowledge, discuss with members of your class what actions you must take personally to prevent or reduce the likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases.

3. Because life expectancy is an average, a major change in the living conditions in a country is needed to bring about a change-for better or worse-in overall life expectancy at birth. As shown in the text and charts, life expectancy around the world has generally been increasing over the past thirty years. Yet in some countries life expectancy has either stayed the same or decreased between 1980 and 1998. Complete the following exercises to explore this phenomenon.

  1. Make a table with five columns.
  2. Label the first column Countries, the second column Region, the third column Life Expectancy at Birth 1980, the fourth column, Life Expectancy at Birth 1998, and the fifth column Difference.
  3. Go to the Social Data Tables, and for each region find any countries in which life expectancy has either stayed the same or decreased between the years 1980 and 1998. Write these countries' names and life expectancy data in the appropriate columns.
  4. For each country, subtract the 1980 data from the 1998 data and write the result in the column labeled Difference (this number should be 0 or negative). Check your answer.
    After creating your table complete the following exercises:
    • Choose one country from your list and research living conditions in this country find out why life expectancy has stayed the same or decreased in the last twenty years. (If a whole class is doing this exercise, each student or pairs of students can choose a different country to research.)
    • Based on what you have learned about life expectancy at birth and the specific issues affecting your country, outline a strategy to help increase life expectancy. Include the following information:
      • Difference between 1980 and 1998 life expectancy data
      • Probable causes for this change (use supporting evidence)
      • Three actions that you would advise the government to take and reasons for these actions. Be specific and make sure you identify which portion(s) of the population you would target. For example, if the main cause for the decrease in life expectancy is poor childhood nutrition, you might want to start a feeding program for children under 5 and an educational program for mothers.
    • * If the problems you define are common to your country's region, determine whether it would help to work with your neighboring countries to establish some regional policies. If so, what would you advise and why?

4. Infectious diseases and chronic, non-communicable diseases are major cause s of child and adult mortality. These two types of diseases, however, affect different parts of the world in different ways, and have quite different causes and results. To investigate these two types of diseases, divide the class into two groups.

  1. Individuals or pairs will each research and report to the class on one of the following infectious diseases (diseases that can be passed on from person to another):
    • AIDS
    • Cholera
    • Dengue
    • Dysentery
    • Ebola
    • Influenza
    • Malaria
    • Poliomyelitis
    • Tuberculosis
    • Typhoid Fever
    • Yellow Fever
    • Riverblindness
  2. Individuals or pairs will research and report the following chronic/non-communicable diseases (diseases that cannot be passed to another person and usually progress slowly and last a long time):
    • Alzheimer's disease
    • Arthritis
    • Asthma
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Hypertension and stroke
    • Kidney and liver failure
  3. Look for information about the disease. Interview your local doctor or nurse, or officials in your town clinic or hospital. Consult libraries or these Internet sites: This United Nations web site on which this activity is based: http://www.un.org/Pubs/CyberSchoolBus/special/health/disease/index.html and a web page from the Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/health/diseases.htm
    Look for the following information:
    • Causes of the disease and how it is spread
    • Effects of the disease
    • Conditions that encourage transmission and/or growth of the disease
    • Extent or incidence of the disease
    • Treatment/Success
    • Prevention/Success
  4. Following the class reports, discuss the implications of the information you have heard. Consider some of the following questions:
    • In what parts of the world are infections diseases serious threats to public health? To what extent are all infectious diseases preventable? To what extent are they treatable?
    • Are children or adults most likely to be victims of infectious diseases?
    • Is it possible to eliminate infectious diseases through prevention and treatment?
    • How long have we known about AIDS and ebola? Are other new infectious diseases likely to emerge in the future?
    • To what extent is sustainable development a factor in successfully controlling infectious diseases? To what extent is controlling infectious diseases a factor in promoting sustainable development?
    • In what parts of the world are chronic/non-communicable disease serious threats to public health?
    • To what extent are chronic/non-communicable diseases treatable? To what extent are they preventable?
    • Are children or adults most likely to be victims of chronic/non-communicable diseases?
    • To what extent is it possible to eliminate chronic/non-communicable diseases through treatment or prevention?
  5. To what extent do chronic/non-communicable diseases restrict economic development?

* For highly motivated students and those with greater knowledge of developing countries.

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