Changing patterns of disease

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Page Last modified 03 Jun 2016
The possibility of exposure to new, emerging and re-emerging diseases, to accidents and new pandemics grows with increased mobility of people and goods, climate change and poverty.

Health is key to human development and we increasingly consider the environment as a key factor determining human health. Globally, health has improved in recent decades, largely in step with improved life expectancy. However, the disease burden is unevenly distributed across the population, varying with, for example, gender and social and economic status.

Over the next 50 years, global health megatrends will continue to have direct and indirect relevance for  policymakers, particularly by prompting investment in preparing for emerging diseases and pandemics.

Why are global health patterns important for you?

Health impacts can be direct. The risks of exposure to new, emerging and re-emerging diseases, to accidents and new pandemics increase with globalisation (through, for example, travel and trade), population dynamics (such as migration and ageing), and poverty.

Growing resistance to antibiotics and other drugs, and neglect in dealing with many tropical diseases also give rise to concern in both developed and developing countries.

Technology can play an important role in supporting improvements in health. It may also facilitate spatial monitoring of health patterns, allowing mapping and analysis of geographic patterns of disease that were previously overlooked.

Graph 2: Health, malaria by 2050

Plasmodium falciparum is a parasite that causes malaria in humans. It is transmitted by mosquito. Changing climate and land use conditions mean that the mosquito could spread to new areas bringing malaria with it. However, it could also die out in existing areas. The areas of appearance and disappearance are about equal and have about the same number of inhabitants (about 400 million in each).

Health, malaria by 2050

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100