Not surprisingly, a recent study found that people around the world are generally living longer lives than ever before with less cases of childhood mortality. While this is obviously great news, does this also mean that humans are healthier now than in the past? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In most countries there have been strides over the last hundred years in better hygiene and living conditions, increased access to vaccinations, and less risk of starvation. While all of this has allowed more humans to live to old age, it doesn’t always equate to greater health status for these people. As an article in the newspaper, the Oregonian points out, “With more children surviving, chronic illnesses and disabilities that strike later in life are taking a bigger toll, the research said. High Blood Pressure has become the leading health risk worldwide, followed by smoking and alcohol.” Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are quickly overtaking infectious disease as the top health priority world-wide.
Luckily, most chronic diseases are considered preventable. There is a great deal that we can do, both as individuals and as a matter of policy, to address and turn around these statistics. There are many organizations working to promote health education, access to fresh fruits and vegetables to poor and urban communities, and safe and fun ways for children and adults to exercise. Here are just a few:
Ending Childhood Obesity Project: Portland, Oregon
Portland Fruit Tree Project: Portland, Oregon
Spiral Gardens Community Food Security: Berkeley, California
Edible School Yard: Berkeley, California