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Alarm raised over deteriorating health of men

[Kazakhstan] Fisherman along Aral Sea.
On average, Kazakh men live 11 years less than women (Danish Society for a Living Sea)

Health experts in Kazakhstan have raised the alarm over deteriorating health among men, calling for action to address the social, economic and demographic consequences of rising male mortality rates and declining male life expectancy.

“The question of mortality is very acute in Kazakhstan,” Senator Beksultan Tutkushev told a press conference in Almaty marking World Population Day on 11 July. “By decreasing the mortality rate, we can improve our demographic situation.”

The gap between male and female life expectancy is - at 11 years - among the world’s highest. Kazakhstan’s men live on average to 61.5 and women to 72.5. Men’s life expectancy has dropped by 3.6 years in recent times, compared to a reduction of 1.6 years among women.

Health officials are particularly concerned over spiralling mortality rates among working-age men, which are growing 3.5 times faster than among working-age women. The urban population is disproportionately affected, with mortality rates among urban working-age men four to five times higher than the national average, Tatyana Slazhneva, deputy director of the National Centre for Problems of Creating a Healthy Lifestyle (NCPCHL), said.

Urban males aged up to 35 live six years less than the national average, while life expectancy for urban men aged over 35 is cut by three years.

Safety standards

Declining industrial safety standards are a factor: men are “engaged in spheres which entail a high risk to life”, NCPCHL said in a statement on 11 July.

The alarm has been raised over safety standards at industrial facilities, which employ large numbers of urban men: there were 114 deaths in the mining and metallurgy industry alone last year, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection says.

Urban males are also at risk from working on building sites to feed Kazakhstan’s construction boom: there were 133 deaths on construction sites in 2006. This year Kazakhstan moved to improve the situation by ratifying a convention on safety standards in the construction industry.

Behavioural factors play a role in male mortality, with smoking, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity all causing men’s health to deteriorate.

Health

Poor health and high mortality rates among working-age men have serious implications for the economy, the press conference heard, and urgent action is needed.

“We need to think deeply about the areas in which we can safeguard men’s health,” Slazhneva said, calling for a national programme to coordinate efforts to improve male healthcare and raise public awareness.

Kazakhstan plans to raise health spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as part of its healthcare strategy for 2008-2010, Health Minister Anatoliy Dernovoy said in May. He cited figures showing health spending had risen from nearly 2 percent of GDP in 2001 to just over 3 percent in 2005 - lower than the World Health Organization estimate, whose latest figures put Kazakhstan’s health spending at 3.8 percent of GDP.

With Kazakhstan’s economy recording double-digit growth annually since 2000, health specialists would like to see some benefit translated into healthcare.

“Why, when we are observing economic development - and quite vigorous economic development - should… life expectancy leave so much to be desired?” asked Slazhneva.

Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, is home to a population of just 15 million living in an area the size of Western Europe. Since increasing the population is a national priority, demographers say the strategy should address male mortality.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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