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Life Expectancy
Complete these exercises with information from the Text.

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1. Read the Text and the definition of life expectancy at birth and answer the following questions:

  1. What does life expectancy at birth mean?
  2. What does it tell you about a country?
  3. On the basis of your experience, what do people need to maintain health?
  4. On the basis of your experience, what do people need when they are ill?
  5. Based on the above answers, what can you infer about conditions in a country with a low rate of life expectancy at birth?

2. Read the Text and the glossary definitions of infant mortality and under-five mortality, and answer the following questions:

  1. What do infant mortality rates measure? What do under-five mortality rates measure?
  2. Why do low-income countries have lower rates of infant and under-five mortality?
  3. Why is infancy and childhood such an important period in determining a country's life expectancy at birth?

3. Life expectancy statistics do not tell how long a person will actually live, but rather, how long a person, on average is likely to live. Changes in income, health conditions, and education are constantly occurring and will affect life in a country. Read the list below and decide whether each situation is likely to increase or reduce life expectancy at birth, or have little or no effect in either direction. Explain your decision.

  1. A severe drought causes a famine.
  2. A new health clinic opens and more children are inoculated against childhood diseases.
  3. The government declares a new national holiday for all workers.
  4. Village women attend classes to learn more about good nutrition and hygiene.
  5. Traveling nurses monitor the growth of infants and provide extra food to those who are not thriving.
  6. Men from a low-income neighborhood lose their jobs when the factory in which they work closes.

4. Which of the following government actions would best respond to the problems listed below: (building pit toilets, using posters and handouts to transmit information, testing women for iron deficiency, requiring immunizations for all male and female children).

  1. Doctors note an alarming increase in HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) in pregnant women.
  2. Problem: An increase in measles and polio occurs among children.
  3. Problem: Many women give birth to underweight babies.
  4. Problem: A village suffers from an epidemic of Cholera, a disease transmitted by contaminated water.
  5. Problem: Alcoholism increases following a severe economic depression.

5. Study the table and answer and discuss at least three of the following questions:

  Level of GNP per Capita (low, middle, high) Low birthweight babies as a percent of all births, 1992-1998 Percent of adult males who smoke, 1985-1998 Percent of adults infected with HIV, 1997 Percent of children under 12 months with immunization for measles, 1995-1998
Argentina Middle 7 40 .69 98
Togo Low 20 65 8.52 38
United States High 8 28 .76 89
Portugal High 5 38 .69 99
Bangladesh Low 50 60 .03 97
Vietnam Low 17 73 .22 96
Moracco Middle 4 40 .03 92

  1. According to the Text, surviving the first five years is the most important factor in determining life expectancy at birth in a country. Based on that statement, which of the countries in the chart is most likely to have low life expectancy at birth? Why?
  2. In what country might life expectancy at birth actually decline? Why?
  3. Which countries might experience an increase in its adult mortality rate in two or three decades?
  4. What evidence in the table would suggest that education could bring improvement in these public health problems? What other factors might also be required for further improvement in these statistics?
  5. Why might it be more difficult for a low-income country like Togo to educate its people about the dangers of AIDS and smoking than for high-income countries like Portugal or the United States?
  6. What is your hypothesis for why it appears to be easier for countries to achieve high levels of measles immunizations than to reduce the percentage of low birthweight babies?
  7. How might some high-income countries contribute to the high levels of smoking in low- and middle-income countries?
  8. How might some high-income countries contribute to the high levels of immunization for measles in many low- and middle-income countries?
  9. Countries usually base their decisions and policies on the priorities of their governments and people. To what extent does the evidence in the chart, suggest the top public health priority of each country? Hypothesize about other reasons for the variation in the statistics.

6. Based on the Text and your own knowledge, argue for or against the following statement: Life expectancy at birth is a useful indicator for measuring Sustainable Development.

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