February 09, 2004

World Health

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution points out some health and education charts from the GapMinder site.

Here's an interesting one on child mortality vs. GDP per capita:


They manage to pack an amazing amount of information into that one chart: circle size indicates population, and colors the geographical region. (Click on the link to see a larger version). While it's no March of Napoleon, Edward Tufte would be proud. It's obviously a remarkably straight line (on a log scale for both variables) but a couple of other things stand out.

First, as expected, Sub-Saharan Africa fares poorly.

Second, if you combine this chart with this one that I previously linked to:

it's clear that China and India have moved significantly to the right (in both graphs) in the last 20 years. (Less because of the actual numbers – it's hard to compare 1996 dollars vs. 2002 PPP dollars – than as implied by the growth rates). While I don't have statistics from 1980 to back it up, it seems logical that the high growth would have translated into significantly increased infant survival statistics during that time — one of the payoffs of globalization. The old chart also reinforces the plight of Africa. Negative growth rates combined with AIDS and corruption will probably keep their mortality rates high for some time.

Third, the USA is noticably below the trend line even though it's near the top in GDP per capita. Explanations I've heard for this include both our immigration policy, which drags down the statistics as compared to the relatively "closed" countries that also grace the upper-right of the graph, and our semi-private, semi-public health system, which arguably puts to little emphasis on pre-natal and infant care as compared to the socialized care in Europe.

Posted by richard at February 9, 2004 10:22 PM

Look at Cuba way out there. You'd think those people live out on an island or something.

Here's a theory I draw from that and the U.S.'s respective plots on this chart: pregnant women who smoke Cuban cigars have healthier babies.

I mean, how else do you explain it?

End the embargo, dammit! Or at least carve out a prenatal "medicinal purposes" exception . . .

Posted by: Brad A. at February 10, 2004 02:52 PM

And what's the deal with China swallowing Turkmenistan and the Philippines? And from the look of things, they now seem to be setting their sights on Latin America.

Through all of it the goddamned U.N. sits and does nothing. Urgh.

Posted by: Brad A. at February 10, 2004 02:59 PM

Yeah, I have to wonder about Cuba. It also makes me question the information from all of the "repressive" regimes. Now maybe Cuba really does have that high of a survival rate, but communist states have a history of publishing rosier-than-reality statistics.

I don't know how they gather the information, but some of the things I've read recently about North Korea make me wonder how it could be as high as it is (higher than India). Given the mass starvation, concentration camps, and stories of Korean women whose jobs are to strangle the newborn babies of other women who were pregnant when captured trying to or having fled to China (to protect the purity of the Korean race of course) -- I don't see how 950 out of a 1000 children could make it to age five. But then I noticed that estimates are in italics and that makes me wonder how they estimate....

Posted by: richard at February 11, 2004 02:05 AM