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Health

The curse of the Fire-Horse: How superstition impacted fertility rates in Japan

Emi Suzuki's picture
Data source: Statistics Bureau of Japan

In 1966, Japan experienced a sudden drop in its fertility rate—for just that year. During the 1960s, the fertility rate was about 2.0 to 2.1 children per woman, but in 1966 it dropped dramatically to 1.6 children per woman (Chart 2). The number of births in 1966 was much lower than in surrounding years, as can also be seen in Japan’s population pyramid, where there’s a big dent for people born in 1966 (the highlighted bars). This isn’t an error in the data, it’s real.

South Asia: A bright spot in darkening economic skies?

Hartwig Schafer's picture
South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of the rising uncertainties that are looming large on the global economic horizon. The region will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region. The Siddhirganj Power Project in Bangladesh. Credit: Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
 
Sadly, when it comes to the global economy, this year’s outlook is taking a somber turn.
 
In the aptly titled Darkening Skies, the World Bank’s new edition of its twice-a-year Global Economic Prospects report shows that risks are looming large on the economic horizon.
 
To sum up:  In emerging market and developing economies, the lingering effects of recent financial market stress on several large economies, a further deceleration in commodity exporters are likely to stall growth at a weaker-than-expected 4.2 percent this year.
 
On a positive note, South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of these rising global uncertainties and will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region.
 
Bucking the global decelerating trend, growth in South Asia is expected to accelerate to 7.1 percent in 2019 from 6.9 percent in the year just ended, bolstered in part by stronger investments and robust consumption.  

Among the region’s largest economies, India is forecast to grow at 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 while Bangladesh is expected to moderate to 7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19. Sri Lanka is seen speeding up slightly to 4 percent in 2019.
 
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to  2.7 percent rate this year.

In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.

However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.

A personal perspective from the medical care frontlines

Patricio V. Marquez's picture
Image courtesy Patricio Marquez

Despite health-promotion and disease-prevention efforts, we are all at risk of catastrophic health events, which can strike at any moment, in the form of a traffic injury, a newly discovered tumor, a brain hemorrhage, or another sudden affliction affecting us or someone we love.  When such events occur, we may abruptly face life-and-death situations that teach us first-hand the critical importance of timely access to medical care.

2018: A year of influence, impact and cooperation on global issues through social media

Zubedah Robinson's picture


​In 2018, the themes of climate change, disruptive technology, and human capital were not only priorities for the World Bank Group, but for governments, private companies, and international organizations of all kinds. The level of partnership online among these groups has been unprecedented as the world collectively tries to address global challenges.

The same kind of cooperation that is driving impact on the ground is also driving awareness and advocacy more broadly as the world rises to these challenges. Below are just a few examples of how collaboration online has strengthened and amplified the global effort to end poverty in 2018 across three key themes.

To build human capital, prioritize women’s empowerment

Annette Dixon's picture



Last month, I attended the International Family Planning Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where policymakers from across the world gathered to strategize about ways to achieve a demographic dividend—the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that comes from having a young and productive labor force driving economic growth that is faster than  population growth.  I was heartened to be joined by ministers of finance and representatives of the highest levels of government, all of whom agreed that women’s empowerment–which centrally includes access to reproductive health services–-is essential for inclusive, sustainable growth.

Financing the health systems of the future: A proposed framework for including non-communicable diseases

Arin Dutta's picture
 
Photo courtesy of Jessica DuVernay

This blog first appeared on Medium, Financing the Health Systems of the Future: A Proposed Framework for Including Non-Communicable Diseases

series of studies put out by the Lancet in 2017 highlighted the urgent challenge that health systems face in addressing a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — diseases that now account for nearly three-quarters of global deaths and will grow to more than 80 percent by 2040.

How is the Human Capital Index prompting action?

Jason Weaver's picture
Students at the Zanaki Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank
Students at the Zanaki Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank

Whew, it’s out!

On October 11, 2018, the World Bank Group released its inaugural Human Capital Index (HCI), a tool that quantifies the contribution of health and education to the productivity of a country’s next generation of workers. The question underpinning the HCI asks, “How much human capital can a child born today expect to acquire by age 18, given the risks to poor health and poor education that prevail in the country where she lives?” Globally, 56 percent of children born today will lose more than half their potential lifetime earnings because governments and other stakeholders are not currently making effective investments to ensure a healthy, educated, and resilient population ready for the workplace of the future.

To drive urgent action on human capital development, the Bank Group’s Human Capital Project (HCP) is working on two other fronts beyond the Human Capital Index. These are Measurement & Research and Country Engagement.

New evidence on the challenge facing reform leaders should they join the Human Capital Project

Stuti Khemani's picture

Reform leaders who are persuaded by the need to invest in human capital face the challenge of getting thousands of state personnel, who staff myriad government agencies, to deliver. The quintessential “delivery unit” in Africa, a region flagged by the Human Capital Index as having the greatest need for health and education investments, consists of local governments helmed by appointed bureaucrats and locally elected politicians. In new research in Uganda, we find that the quality of local politicians, elected at humble levels in a village or district, is a robust and substantial predictor of delivery of national health programs. These results suggest that for the Human Capital Project to have impact it may need to move beyond creating political space for national leaders to allocate more public resources to health and education and take-on the challenge of local politics as key to service delivery at the last mile.

Stronger social accountability, key to closing “human capital gap”

Jeff Thindwa's picture



With the creation of the World Bank’s Human Capital project and launch of the Human Capital Index in October 2018 it is fitting for social accountability practitioners to ask how countries would be able to close the ‘human capital gap’ and to be accountable for their efforts?

South Asia's new superfood or just fishy business?

Pawan Patil's picture
Across South Asia, four known species of indigenous, fully mature, small food-fish – now dubbed ‘NutriFish’ have nutritional and health benefits for pregnant and lactating women and young children when consumed over the first one thousand days. Here, children from Kothi, Odisha in India show their curiosity and share their excitement with a new kind of harvest happening in their village. Credit: Arun Padiyar
Kale, Kefir, and Quinoa have now joined the ranks of better-known foods like Blueberries, Orange Sweet Potato, and Salmon on family dinner tables across the world.

Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.   

We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.  

Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.

And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.

Food is also now advancing to the front-line of the war on poverty

A health and human capital crisis is now sweeping the world, and a lack of diverse, accessible, affordable, and available nourishing foods is increasingly blamed.  

For example, obesity, from poor diet and poor exercise has tripled since 1975 to almost two billion people today.  

Undernutrition contributes to 45 percent of all deaths of children under five years old (3.5 million each year), much of it avoidable, but difficult to detect as it remains “hidden.”  

Policy makers and stewards of national economies are starting to wake up to the fact that poor nutrition has massive economic implications too, reducing GDP by 3-11 percent, depending on the country. 

While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full, critical micronutrients and vitamins, essential for healthy physical and cognitive development over the first 1,000 days of life are largely missing from diets of many developing countries and are a proven drag to educational attainment and economic prosperity.  

And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right. 

If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?     

With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.  

A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.  

A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
 
NutriFish1000 TV

 


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