Warming up to kill

Deaths, diseases to increase with rising temperatures: WHO

- 140,000 excess deaths due to global warming in 2004
- 70,000 excess deaths recorded in Europe in the heat wave of summer 2003. Extreme high temperatures can cause deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, particularly among the elderly
- 1.2 million deaths every year is caused by urban air pollution. High temperatures also raise levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
- 300 million people are affected by asthma. This number is likely to increase as pollen and allergens that trigger it increase during extreme heat
- 60,000: Number of people who die every year in weather-related natural disasters, mainly in developing countries. This is thrice the number of such deaths in the 1960s
- 50 per cent: Likely decrease in production of staple foods due to rising temperatures and changing rainfall pattern in some African countries
- 2 billion more people would be exposed to dengue by 2080 due to climate change
- 2.2 million people die of communicable diseases like diarrhoea every year. Their numbers will increase with increase in migration caused by climate change. More than half the world's population lives within 60 km of the sea and may have to migrate


Source: World Health Organization

The failure to address issues related to the disease-illness dichotomy and the cure-healing divide and to bridge the gap between these part-perceptions is a major cause of patient dissatisfaction. The increased cost of health care and the urban-centric nature of our health delivery system make it unaffordable and inaccessible to the majority of Indians. The health-hospital, pharmaceutical and medical education industries, which profit from disease and illness, also complicate the situation. These factors have resulted in dissatisfaction with quality of health care for the vast majority of the population and a crisis in health care in India. The problematic conceptualisation of disease and illness which underpins many of these issues is highlighted.
Bridging the disease-illness divide in medicine, K.S. Jacob, The Hindu, June 12, 2009